The Afghan government has used its platform at the UN General Assembly to urge the Taliban to join the government “in peace”, days after a presidential election, boycotted by the armed group, was held in the country.
The Taliban, which has been waging an armed rebellion since it was toppled in a US-led invasion in 2001, has dubbed the electoral process a “sham” and warned voters not to go to the polls.
In his address, National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib trumpeted the democratic commitment of Afghans who voted despite lingering threats – some had had their fingers cut off by the Taliban during the 2014 elections, he noted.
“Join us in peace, or we will continue to fight,” Mohib said during his speech to the annual UN gathering on Monday.
In a country where a new generation of leaders has grown up in wartime, “the opportunities afforded to us through the gains of the past 20 years have allowed us to change hope into something much more powerful – belief,” Mohib said.
“We believe in our abilities to bring about the peace we have hoped for all our lives.”
The presidential election was marred by allegations of irregularities and low voter turnout amid threats from the Taliban, which control or hold sway over roughly half the country and have launched a number of attacks.
Afghanistan‘s political future looks uncertain amid the political wrangling over the election process and rising civilian casualties in attacks attributed both to the Taliban and the West-backed government in Kabul.
The collapse of the US-Taliban peace talks in September has put a question mark over whether a deal to end the US’s longest war will come about.
The Afghan government had been sidelined in the talks, as the Taliban has refused to talk directly with an administration the armed group deems a US “puppet”.
The results of the elections are due in November.
Thousands of people have been killed over the past month as a result of violence by the Taliban as well as Afghan forces.
On Tuesday, Afghan officials said a multi-pronged Taliban attack on a district headquarters in northern Balkh province killed at least 11 policemen.
Munir Ahmad Farhad, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the attack started early on Tuesday morning and triggered a gun battle that is still under way around the Shortepa district headquarters.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the fighters overran the district – a claim that Farhad denied, adding that reinforcements were on their way to Shortepa.
Mohammad Afzel Hadid, head of the Balkh provincial council, said he feared the death toll could rise further unless reinforcements arrive soon.