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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 9 December 2018

Afghanistan Taliban 'want to solve war through dialogue'

But the militants said their willingness to play a 'constructive role in finding a peaceful solution' should not be taken as a sign of weakness

Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the district of Shindand in Afghanistan's Herat province on May 27, 2016. Allauddin Khan, File / AP
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the district of Shindand in Afghanistan's Herat province on May 27, 2016. Allauddin Khan, File / AP

The Taliban said on Wednesday they want to end Afghanistan's war through dialogue but warned their armed campaign would be sustained no matter how powerful the US opposition.

A more aggressive American strategy in Afghanistan including a surge in air strikes introduced by President Donald Trump in August last year has pushed the Taliban back from several district centres and two provincial capitals.

But the militants control large parts of the countryside and have responded to the more aggressive US strategy with two attacks in Kabul in recent weeks, killing nearly 150 people.

The attacks have toughened Washington and Kabul's stand on trying to initiate talks to end nearly 17 years of war that neither side seems capable of winning.

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The Taliban offer of dialogue came in a statement addressed to the American people.

"Our preference is to solve the Afghan issue through peaceful dialogue," the movement said.

It did not mention a January 27 attack on a top Kabul hotel, in which more than 30 people were killed, nor a bombing on a crowded street a week later that killed more than 100 — both were claimed by the Taliban.

The militants, fighting to oust foreign forces and defeat the US-backed government, said the United States must end its "occupation" and accept the Taliban's right to form a government "consistent with the beliefs of our people".

They only mentioned the Afghan government to deride it on various grounds.

A government spokesman declined to comment on the statement, while a spokesman for Afghanistan's Nato-led military mission was not immediately available for comment.

It was not too late for the American people to realise the Taliban can solve problems with every side "through healthy politics and dialogue", the militants said, adding that the chances for dialogue were "not exhausted".

But they said their willingness to play a "constructive role in finding a peaceful solution" should not be taken as a sign of weakness.

"This can never mean that we are exhausted or our will has been sapped," the militants added, though said they had no intention to damage any other country or let anyone use Afghan territory against anyone else.

Preliminary talks on ending the war that kills thousands of people each year have stalled.

But low-level contacts between the government, international groups including the United Nations and groups close to the Taliban have continued even as the insurgency has escalated.

Progress has been blocked by the deep mistrust between the government and the Taliban, as well as uncertainty about the position of neighbours, including Pakistan, which Afghanistan has long accused of aiding the insurgents.

Islamabad rejects accusations that it sponsors the Taliban.