U.S. Urges Taliban’s New Leaders to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

FILE - In this Sunday, July 31, 2011 file photo, Taliban fighters hold their heavy and light weapons before surrendering them to Afghan authorities in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP)
FILE – In this Sunday, July 31, 2011 file photo, Taliban fighters hold their heavy and light weapons before surrendering them to Afghan authorities in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. (PHOTO CREDIT: AP)

The United States is calling on the Taliban’s new leaders — named Friday to succeed Mullah Omar — to take part in what the U.S. sees as an extremely promising opportunity for “a genuine peace” and reconciliation between the Taliban and the Kabul government.

The top American diplomat working on Afghan peace efforts, Daniel Feldman, says the United States hopes all sides will move beyond the cancellation of Friday’s scheduled peace talks following confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death.

“This is a clear moment of opportunity and we strongly encourage the Taliban to use this time of opportunity to make a genuine peace with the Afghan government and to rebuild their lives in peace in Afghanistan,” Feldman told reporters in Kabul on Friday.

Afghan government and Taliban envoys were set to meet in neighboring Pakistan on Friday for a second round of peace talks aimed at ending the conflict in Afghanistan.

But on the eve of the meeting, Afghan officials disclosed to the surprise of many that the insurgent group’s fugitive leader died two years ago. The Taliban later confirmed the news and decided to pull out of the talks until settling the leadership crisis.

“Mullah Omar’s death could present opportunities for other terrorist organizations to recruit disenchanted Taliban members; create splinter groups who may seek peace settlements with the Afghanistan government; or possibly incentivize the Taliban to continue its fighting efforts,” said a U.S. intellegence official on Friday.

Mansoor declared new chief
On Friday, the insurgent group formally declared Mullah Akhtar Mansoor as its new chief but the announcement did not mention the fate of peace talks with the Afghan government.

The revelation by the Afghan government that Mullah Omar had actually died in April of 2013 continues to raise questions about its motives.

Feldman said the United States is still assessing and evaluating the developments.

But he refused to be drawn into speculations, though he acknowledged Washington too until recently was unaware of the death of Mullah Omar.

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SOURCE: VOA News, Ayaz Gul

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