Taliban must choose talks, says official

Taliban must choose talks, says official

İpek Yezdani ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
Taliban must choose talks, says official

A US soldier walks during a mission as Afghan family sits in a push cart in Turkham Nangarhar bordering with Pakistan, where Taliban is effective, in this file photo. AFP Photo

The Taliban must come to the negotiating table if they do not want to become “tools” in the hands of neighboring countries, according to the head of the Afghanistan Transition Commission.

“The Taliban have a choice: Are they Afghans or are they tools of some neighbors? If they are Afghans first, then they need to come to the table and arrive with an understanding where there will be no limit for discussion, tolerance and flexibility,” Ashraf Gani told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview on the sidelines of the Black Sea Energy and Economic Forum in Istanbul, which was organized Nov. 17 and 18.

Gani, who heads the commission that is helping to smooth the transition of power from NATO forces to Kabul, also said there had been an agreement to open a Taliban office in Turkey but added that such plans had been largely shelved after Afghanistan’s former president, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in September at the hands of men posing as Taliban peace envoys.

The commission head said many Afghans were tired of violence. “So there are at least millions of people who would want nothing more than peace. We have endured conflict for more than 30 years,” said Gani.

If the Taliban do become manipulated by foreign powers by refusing to come to the negotiating table, they will become isolated, he said.

Gani also said the pressing issues of injustice, violations of the rule of law and abuse by governmental officials must be addressed – regardless of whether it is by the Taliban or someone else.

“A just society cannot tolerate corruption, abuse of law and misuse of power,” said Gani.

Repeating the success of Turkey

After foreign troops leave Afghanistan, the country’s future success will depend on whether it can repeat the success of Turkey in determining its own future, Gani said.

“Preparing Afghanistan for the departure of foreign troops in 2014 is going to be a real challenge, and it depends on whether we can repeat the success of Turkey and take our destiny into our hands and bringing about a set of fundamental reforms,” Gani said.

The official said Afghanistan needed fundamental reforms for its future. “Without reforms, it would be very difficult. With reforms, it would be hopeful because our people are proud people.”

The commission head said it was time for the Afghanistan to assume responsibility for the direct support of the Afghan government for security. “This does not mean the abandonment of Afghanistan by the international community, [but rather] the deepening and broadening of the partnership.” Turkey has long been Afghanistan’s partner and relations of between Kabul and Ankara go back to the 1920s, he said.

“Compared to the United States and India, Turkey’s construction role is relatively small, but its role is quite significant, especially in education and training. The number of Afghan students graduating from Turkish schools and the role in the support of the army has been quite significant,” he said.