Taliban leader: No peace without foreigners leaving

In statement, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada says ending "occupation" is a prerequisite for peace in Afghanistan.

    Akhundzada replaced Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike [Reuters]
    Akhundzada replaced Mansour, who was killed in a US drone strike [Reuters]

    The new Taliban leader has called for an end to the foreign "occupation" of Afghanistan as a first step to a settlement based on Islamic law that he said would bring unity to a country hit by decades of war.

    In one of his first public statements, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said agreement was possible if the government in Kabul renounced its foreign allies.

    "Your support and siding with invaders is like the work of those abhorrent faces who in our past history supported the Britons and the Soviets," he said in a message before next week's celebration of Eid.

    READ MORE: Who is new Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada?

    Akhundzada was named Taliban leader after the death of his predecessor Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour in a US drone strike in May.

    'Doors of forgiveness'

    He said the Taliban had a programme aimed at creating an independent and united country under Islamic law and told the Western-backed government in Kabul that "the doors of forgiveness and tolerance are open".

    "Our clear message is that we do not want a monopoly of power," he said.

    "All Afghan tribes and races need each other."

    The statement came two days after a suicide attack that killed more than 30 newly graduated police cadets, and less than two weeks after more than 20 people died in separate attacks in Kabul and the northern province of Badakhshan.

    READ MORE: 14 Nepali security guards killed in Kabul

    NATO leaders meeting at a Warsaw summit later in July are expected to approve maintaining support for the Kabul government up to 2020.

    The Taliban now controls more territory than at any time since 2001, but the fighting with come at a heavy cost, with 11,000 civilian casualties last year alone.

    Failed peace efforts

    Peace talks broke down last year after it was revealed that Mansour had covered up the death of the Taliban's founder Mullah Mohammad Omar two years earlier.

    Efforts to revive them in a framework backed by Pakistan, the United States and China have so far failed.

    The Taliban's political office in Qatar, which has been a key point of contact in behind-the-scenes exchanges, would "continue its efforts with a view to resolving the Afghan issue," Akhundzada said.

    Dozens of Afghan police recruits killed in Taliban attack

    SOURCE: Reuters


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