By Shadi Khan Saif
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday renewed calls for peace with the Taliban.
Marking the 28th anniversary of the withdrawal of the Red Army from Afghanistan, Ghani vowed the country would repeat history by defeating terrorism just as it defeated communism.
The former World Bank economist-turned-politician hailed a landmark peace deal signed with the former rebel party Hezb-e-Islami last year, and called upon the Taliban to follow suit.
"Those Taliban who can think independently and have the spirit for Islam and Afghanistan, I call upon them that Afghanistan is joint home to all Afghans; come and live with pride with your countrymen and take part in its development, not [its] destruction," he said.
The Taliban also issued a statement in connection with the 28th anniversary of the Red Army's withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“Before the invasion of Afghanistan, the Soviet Union was considered the most powerful country on the face of the planet, feared by the entire world including America and NATO.
“If we look at the current situation, the state of America in Afghanistan is exactly the same as that of the Soviet Union during the final days of her invasion,” the group said.
Just like the Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami -- led by former Mujahedeen leader Gulbudin Hekmatyar -- also insisted for years upon the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan who have been based in the country since toppling the Taliban regime in late 2001.
However, with the peace accord signed in September last year, Hekmatyar has smartly acknowledged their stay without endorsing it.
Article 4 of the 26-point peace deal between the Afghan government and Hezb-e-Islami states: “In Article 4, the government has proposed the exit of foreign forces should be in line with the agreements the government has signed with related countries, but the Hezb-e-Islami demanded a reasonable time table, hence to settle the dispute this Article has been shaped in this way.”
The Taliban, however, are sticking to this demand as precondition for any talks, despite some back channel contacts with the Afghan government in the past, mediated by third parties.
Ashiqullay Yaqub, an Afghan writer and political analyst, told Anadolu Agency the consistency in Ghani’s calls for peace with the Taliban and the successful deal inked with Hekmatyar demonstrate the Kabul government’s determination to find a settlement.
“Under the changing geopolitical circumstances in the region, Ghani is lobbying hard to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table; he does not want the country to become a battlefield for the regional and global powers,” he added.
He sees Ghani’s latest message as being directed at the Taliban’s leadership, believed to still be hiding in Pakistan.
The latest call for peace with the Taliban came a day after Ghani concluded a trip to the United Arab Emirates. The Gulf country was among the few states to recognize the Taliban regime between 1996 and 2001.
The president visited Abu Dhabi to offer his condolences over the deaths of five UAE diplomats in a blast in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Jan. 10 this year.
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