Afghan peace talks to accelerate: Taliban

·2-min read

The Taliban plan to present a written peace proposal to the Afghan government as soon as next month, a spokesman for the Islamist insurgents said even as they make major territorial gains in the breach left by departing foreign forces.

Hundreds of Afghan security force members have fled into neighbouring Tajikistan in the face of Taliban advances since the United States vacated its main Afghan base, centrepiece of NATO might for almost two decades in the country, as part of a plan to withdraw all foreign troops by September 11.

While the transfer of Bagram Air Base to the Afghan army added momentum to a Taliban drive to seize control over new districts, Taliban leaders last week renewed long-stalled talks with Afghan government envoys in Qatar's capital Doha.

"The peace talks and process will be accelerated in the coming days ... and they are expected to enter an important stage, naturally it will be about peace plans," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters on Monday.

"Possibly it will take a month to reach that stage when both sides will share their written peace plan," he said, adding the latest round of talks were at a critical juncture.

"Although we (Taliban) have the upper hand on the battlefield, we are very serious about talks and dialogue."

The upsurge in fighting and the flight of thousands of members of the tattered Afghan security forces have raised grave doubt about the US-backed peace negotiations, which began last year under then-president Donald Trump.

A US State Department official said a negotiated settlement was the only way to end 40 years of war in Afghanistan.

"We urge the sides to engage in serious negotiations to determine a political roadmap for Afghanistan's future that leads to a just and durable settlement, the official said.

"The world will not accept the imposition by force of a government in Afghanistan.

"Legitimacy and assistance for any Afghan government can only be possible if that government has a basic respect for human rights."

Western security officials say insurgent forces have captured more than 100 districts but the Taliban say they have control of more than 200 across 34 provinces comprising more than half the country.

On Sunday, more than 1000 Afghan security personnel retreated across the northern border into Tajikistan after Taliban advances, the Tajik border guard service said.

Dozens of others were captured by the insurgents.

Najia Anwari, spokesperson for Afghanistan's Ministry for Peace Affairs, confirmed talks had resumed and said its representatives were "very happy" Taliban envoys were not rejecting the process outright.

"It is difficult to anticipate that the Taliban will provide us with their written document of a peace plan in a month but let's be positive. We hope they present (it) so as to understand what they want," Anwari said.

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