The Taliban has flatly rejected a proposal by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to hold snap elections within six months or a year right after a peace deal is signed with the militant group.
Ghani will unveil details of his proposal at an international peace conference in Turkey in April, according to a senior Afghan government official who spoke to RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan on March 23.
Under Ghani’s proposed plan, the Afghan official told RFE/RL, a presidential election could be held in six months or a year under the auspices of the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States, if the Taliban agree on a cease-fire.
The official said that the Afghan president had submitted the plan to U.S. officials, who are still “deliberating.”
Ghani's current administration would remain in place until the vote is conducted, but Taliban members could join the government as well as Afghan security and defense forces.
The source added that in order to remove possible suspicions of vote rigging and Taliban concerns, Ghani and his two vice presidents, Amrullah Saleh and Sarwar Danish, are ready to decline running in the elections.
The Taliban immediately rejected the proposal.
"Such processes (elections) have pushed the country to the verge of crisis in the past," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in reaction to Ghani's reported plan.
"They are now talking about a process that has always been scandalous," Mujahid told AFP.
"We will never support it," he said, adding that any decision on the country's future must be agreed in the current negotiations between the militants and the government that are currently under way in Qatar.
Under a deal reached by Washington with the Taliban last year, the U.S. troops would withdraw by May 1, although President Joe Biden said earlier this month the deadline would be "tough" to meet.
The Taliban's reaction to Ghani's proposal comes after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NATO on March 23 that Washington is still weighing up whether to withdraw its troops by the May 1 deadline.
Ghani was sworn in as president for a second five-year term in March 2020 after a disputed presidential election.