- No talks unless foreign forces leave; prisoners are freed
- Afghan war has killed thousands of Afghans, American soldiers
Afghanistan’s Taliban said it won’t attend peace talks as the militant group vowed to keep a 15-year-long conflict going until foreign forces completely leave the country.
Representatives of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the U.S. have held meetings to build a road map of peace talks with the Taliban, the group that sheltered Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks. Taliban members were invited by the nations to participate in peace talks with the Afghan government in Islamabad this month.
“No one has been tasked by our leader to attend the meeting nor has the leadership council decided on the participation of the meeting," Zabihullah Mujahed, a Taliban spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. The group said talks aren’t possible until occupation by foreign forces ends and innocent Taliban prisoners are freed.
Initial peace efforts were jeopardized last year after Afghanistan’s intelligence agency leaked news of the 2013 death of Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar. Deputy leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour has succeeded him.
The Taliban also accused the U.S. of increasing troops, air strikes and night raids on local homes. The government in Kabul has also escalated operations against the group, it said.
President Ashraf Ghani is seeking an urgent peace deal with the group. Almost 60,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded since the United Nations began recording casualties in 2009. The war has killed more than 2,300 American soldiers and cost more than $700 billion. The U.S. has halted withdrawal of troops because of escalating attacks.