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Afghan insurgency won't slow until U.S. talks to Taliban, says ex-Taliban official - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Taliban militants and other armed anti-U.S. groups will continue their violent opposition against Afghan and American-led forces until a genuine dialogue is begun to solve Afghanistan’s problems, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan said. But Afghan and U.S. officials on Friday rejected the idea of dealing with extremists who have blood on their hands, stressing that military action was the only way to bring them to justice.

Abdul Salam Zaeef, who returned to Afghanistan in late 2005 after being held for more than three years at the U.S. military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, also called for fair trials for the about 500 detainees at the Cuba-based facility.

“I don’t want these people to be released without having a fair trial, because only then will the world see that America doesn’t have any evidence to justify holding them for four years,” Zaeef said Thursday from his heavily guarded house on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, Kabul.

During recent months, Afghanistan has witnessed an increase in bombings and shootings targeting U.S.-led coalition troops and Afghan forces across the country, particularly inside former Taliban strongholds in the south.

To try to counter the bloodshed, more than 9,000 NATO-led forces will be deploying across volatile southern provinces such as Kandahar and Helmand by the end of July. At least 18,000 U.S. soldiers are currently in Afghanistan.

But Zaeef, who says he is keeping to himself now after becoming “fed up” with his country’s continued bloodshed, doubted whether military action against Afghanistan’s “opposition groups” will halt the violence.

“We know the Taliban and (Gulbuddin) Hekmatyar (the renegade former premier now wanted as a terrorist by the United States) can do something (against the coalition) and create further problems,” Zaeef told The Associated Press.

“I think the problem (of violence) is increasing and people have to decide whether they will solve it through use of power or negotiation. Afghanistan needs reconciliation but I don’t think the Americans want to negotiate.”

U.S. military spokesman Col. Tom Collins ruled out coalition forces entering into dialogue with insurgents. Khaleeq Ahmed, spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said his government has formed a peace and reconciliation commission that has encouraged more than 1,000 ex-Taliban members to embrace the new constitution and government and reject violence. “But there are exceptions,” Ahmed said. “There are those who have burned schools and killed doctors, nurses and many other innocent Afghans.”

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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