Karzai wants to be front and center of peace talks

Karzai wants to be front and center of peace talks

KABUL, Afghanistan
Karzai wants to be front and center of peace talks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai waves to members of parliament in Kabul on Jan 21. Karzai said his government recently met a delegation from Hizb-i-Islami. AFP photo

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Jan. 21 that he personally held peace talks recently with the insurgent faction Hizb-i-Islami, appearing to assert his own role in a U.S.-led bid for negotiations to end the country’s decade-long war.

Karzai made the announcement hours before he met with American special representative Marc Grossman to discuss progress and plans for bringing the Taliban insurgency into formal talks for the first time.

“Recently, we met with a delegation from Hizb-i-Islami ... and had negotiations,” Karzai told a meeting of the Afghan parliament. “We are hopeful that these negotiations for peace continue and we will have good results,” he added. Karzai’s statement was a reminder that any negotiations to end Afghanistan’s war will be more complex than just talking to the Taliban’s Pakistan-based leadership, headed by Mullah Mohammed Omar. Hizb-i-Islami is a radical Islamist militia that controls territory in Afghanistan’s northeast and launches attacks against U.S. forces from Pakistan. Its leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, is a former U.S. ally now listed as a terrorist by Washington.

French minister: Taliban infiltrator killed troops

The U.S. has said that formal negotiations must be Afghan-led, but Karzai is reportedly uneasy with his government not being directly involved in talks with Taliban. Grossman, however, stressed that any future negotiations would include Afghanistan’s government.

“After our meeting with President Karzai, we will decide what to do next,” Grossman said Jan. 20. French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet also arrived in Kabul Jan. 21 for talks with Afghan officials after Paris suspended training missions following the killing of four French troops by an Afghan soldier. Gerard Longuet said that the 21-year-old Afghan, who has been identified as Abdul Mansour, was arrested after the shooting dead four French soldiers was a one-time army deserter and a Taliban infiltrator. “It was evidently a Taliban (who had) infiltrated (the Afghan army) for a long time,” Longuet said. Insurgents killed a NATO service member in southern Afghanistan Jan. 21, the coalition said. Separately, a roadside bomb killed four Afghan civilians Jan. 21 in Helmand province in the south, the Interior Ministry said.

Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

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