KABUL (REUTERS) - The US special peace envoy for Afghanistan should stop calling on Taleban militants to lay down their arms and convince the United States to end the use of force instead, the Taleban said on Friday (May 3).
Mr Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born US diplomat, entered a sixth round of talks with the hardline Islamist group in Qatar this week in a bid to end America's longest war.
"In our opening session, I underscored to the Talibs that the Afghan people, who are their brothers & sisters, want this war to end," Mr Khalilzad said in a tweet.
"It is time to put down arms, stop the violence, & embrace peace."
Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a series of sharp tweets in response.
"@US4AfghanPeace (Mr Khalilzad's Twitter handle) should forget about the idea of us putting down our arms," he said.
"Instead of such fantasies, he should drive the idea home (to the US) about ending the use of force and incurring further human and financial losses for the decaying Kabul administration."
He said the US must stop repeating failed strategies while expecting different outcomes.
"It would be better if @US4AfghanPeace musters the courage to call a spade a spade, not a gardening tool & accept the current realities."
Intense fighting continues across the country with the Taleban controlling or influencing more territory than at any point since their ouster at the hands of US-led troops following the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on the US.
The US has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a Nato-led mission, known as Resolute Support, that is training and assisting the Afghan government's security forces in their battle against Taleban fighters and extremist groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda.
After five rounds of talks, Mr Khalilzad reported some progress towards an accord on withdrawing US troops and on how the Taleban would prevent extremists from using Afghanistan to launch attacks.
The Taleban, who refuse to talk to the Afghan government, insist that talks cannot move ahead until foreign forces leave.
"Peace will require that we find common ground on four inter-connected issues: troop withdrawal, counter-terrorism assurances, intra-Afghan dialogue & negotiations, and reduction in the violence leading to a comprehensive ceasefire," Mr Khalilzad said in his tweet.
"Nothing will be final until we agree on all four issues."