Taliban Offer to Reduce Violence Won’t Aid Peace, Official Says

The Taliban’s offer to reduce violence for several days ahead of fresh talks with the U.S. would not bring the war-torn nation any closer to peace when the majority of the country remained excluded from the negotiations, a senior Afghan official said.

“The plan for violence reduction or anything of its kind is a vague proposal” that can deceive citizens and the international community, second Vice President of Afghanistan, Sarwar Danish said on Sunday in the capital Kabul. “So far, the government and the people — including civil society, political parties, and ethnic groups — have been sidelined in the peace negotiations,” between the Taliban and the U.S. “and, in such a situation, peace cannot be achieved,” Danish said.

The Taliban offered a 7 to 10 day halt in its military operations ahead of renegotiations with the U.S. The proposal was given to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation in Doha, Qatar, where the group has a political office.

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The U.S. had asked for a complete long-term cease-fire before a peace deal. The deal will allow some 13,000 troops to return home and bring an end to the 18-year war in Afghanistan. The protracted and bloody conflict has killed tens of thousands of Afghans, more than 2,400 U.S. forces and cost the U.S. about $900 billion.

“Reduced violence isn’t a form a cease-fire, it is still a form of violence,” said Waheed Omar, a close aide to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, on Twitter. “What will be the indicators of a reduced violence scenario as against a full violence scenario? Confusing and unmeasurable.”

Taliban, which controls a large swathe of Afghanistan, has said it will open direct talks with Afghan officials after the U.S. troop withdrawal deal. Ghani has said the Taliban must first accept a nationwide cease-fire before any direct peace negotiations.

The U.S. resumed the talks with the Taliban in December months after President Donald Trump abruptly called off the dialog in response to a suicide bomb attack in Kabul that killed an American soldier.