Taliban leader says peace talks are 'misleading rumours'
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had completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, opposing their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
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.