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Afghan Taliban Claim Ready For Peace Talks, But Kabul Is Cool


Afghanistan -- Relatives and loved ones carry the coffin of a victim killed in the April 19 Taliban truck bomb attack, at a funeral in Kabul, April 20, 2016

The Afghan Taliban claim to have sent a delegation to Pakistan for peace talks just as the Afghan government cooled to negotiations in the wake of last week's massive bomb blast that killed 64 people in Kabul.

"We are aware that Taliban delegations are in Pakistan, but we will not go there until Pakistan fulfills the promises that they made" to take military action against Taliban leaders based in Pakistan who previously rejected peace talks, Dawa Khan Mina Pal, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, told Reuters on April 26.

Taliban sources told the news media that the militant group's delegation arrived in Karachi on April 25 to meet with Pakistani officials, with at least two representatives coming from the Taliban's political office in Qatar.

"We don't care if Kabul participates in the meeting, as we already launched our spring offensive and are getting successes against them," one Taliban representative from Qatar told Reuters.

A senior Afghan Taliban source based in Pakistan told AFP that the group's three-member negotiating team was in Karachi and would "soon begin initial contacts with Pakistani and Afghan officials."

"The main purpose of the visit is to explore ways and means to bring peace in Afghanistan," the source said. "It is an initial stage and formal peace talks have yet to begin. They have arrived on Pakistan's invitation."

The peace talks have been marked by fitful starts and stops. Last month, the Taliban ruled out participating in what it called "futile" talks sponsored by the four-power group of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States, and China, as long as foreign forces remained in Afghanistan.

Then this week, Ghani demanded that Pakistan fight Taliban militants at home rather than bring them to the peace talks.

Afghanistan has long accused Pakistan of giving safe have to the Afghan Taliban leadership, and Islamabad recently admitted that was true after years of denial, though it claims to have "limited influence" over the militants.

The talks between Kabul and the Afghan Taliban were aborted even at very beginning in July 2015, when a planned negotiating session was scrapped after the belated revelation that Mullah Omar, the group's founder, had died two years earlier.

The disclosure sparked months of infighting within the militant group.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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