Karzai warns of 'plot' against Afghan peace
KABUL - Agence France-Presse
Afghan President Hamid Karzai. AP photoAfghan President Hamid Karzai Tuesday accused foreign countries of plotting against his war-weary nation's peace programme, saying all negotiations should take place under his administration.
Without pointing a finger at any particular country, Karzai said he had told the US government during a recent visit to Washington that "no foreign party must try to take the Afghan peace process in its hand".
All negotiations with Taliban insurgents should take place through the government-appointed High Peace Council, but unnamed "foreigners" had tried to sidestep the council, Karzai said.
Karzai made the comments in a long diversion during a speech to a water management conference in Kabul, but it was unclear why he raised the issue or who exactly he was targeting.
A senior official told AFP that Karzai was referring "to foreign and internal elements who are trying to tell the Taliban to hold talks with other groups and encouraging political groups to hold talks with the Taliban".
The plan was to weaken the Afghan government, he said, adding that the "foreign elements" were from both Western and regional countries.
Afghan Defence Minister Bismillah Khan Muhammadi is on a five-day visit to neighbouring Pakistan, where he has met the army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani.
Afghan-Pakistani relations are understood to have improved recently despite years of suspicion and mutual accusations of Taliban violence plaguing both countries.
"Any effort to conduct peace talks individually is not an effort for peace but it's a plot by the foreigners, aimed at weakening Afghanistan," Karzai said.
Washington began tentative moves towards peace with the Taliban a year ago. But the militia broke off the talks a few months later, apparently over the failure of the United States to free Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay.
The Taliban are in the process of opening a political office in Qatar to facilitate talks, but the US ambassador to Afghanistan said earlier this month that a peace process "hasn't even really begun".
The United States, which will withdraw its combat troops next year, has repeatedly said any peace process should be Afghan-led.
Pakistan, which Kabul accuses of harbouring Taliban fighters, said it freed 26 Taliban prisoners late last year in a bid to kick-start peace talks ahead of the withdrawal of US and NATO forces.