Taliban leader says peace talks are `misleading rumours`
Last Updated: Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 10:59
Kabul: The Taliban high command on Tuesday ruled out peace talks to bring an end to the bitter, nine-year conflict in Afghanistan and described claims that negotiations were under way as "misleading rumours".

A statement attributed to Mullah Omar, the reclusive, one-eyed leader of the Islamist militant group, also dismissed the surge of tens of thousands of coalition troops as ineffective and again predicted defeat for foreign forces.

NATO leaders gather in the Portuguese capital Lisbon on Friday for a two-day summit that is likely to be dominated by the shift in strategy in Afghanistan, including the timetable for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

The US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told reporters in Islamabad today that the meeting would map out the end of the alliance's combat mission.

"From Lisbon on we will be on a transition strategy with a target date of the end of 2014 for Afghanistan taking over responsibility for leading the security," he said.

Omar said the Taliban would not rest until foreign forces had completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, opposing their presence even in an extended, "soft power" role supporting the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

He also urged Afghans not to co-operate with what he called Karzai's "puppet" administration.

"The enemy has been defeated on the battlefield," Omar said in an emailed statement to media organisations, which was also posted on the SITE monitoring group's web site, on the eve of the major Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

"Now they rely on media hypes and portray themselves as if making advancement but the ground realities are what you and we are witnessing.

"Their life casualties are spiralling up. It is because of this pressure that the enemy has resorted to spreading the misleading rumours of peace talks," the English-language version of the statement said.

Karzai's office has said that progress was being made in the "reintegration progress of the government opposition", or Taliban-led insurgents.

The Taliban have signalled a willingness for a political solution, according to a government-backed peace council, while NATO's top commander said his troops had helped at least one Taliban leader get to Kabul to meet officials.

But it is unclear at what level any talks have taken place and the US government has said it doubts Omar will be part of any reconciliation efforts.

The Afghan Taliban supreme command, headed by Omar, is now believed to be based in Pakistan, allegedly enjoying some measure of protection by certain circles.


First Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2010, 10:59

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