Taleban leader 'favours political settlement' to Afghan conflict

Afghan National Army officers at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 8, 2021. PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL (AFP) - The Taleban's supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada on Sunday (July 18) said he "strenuously favours" a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan even as the hardline Islamist movement has launched a sweeping offensive across the nation.

"In spite of the military gains and advances, the Islamic Emirate strenuously favors a political settlement in the country," Akhundzada said in a message released ahead of next week's Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.

"Every opportunity for the establishment of an Islamic system, peace and security that presents itself will be made use of by the Islamic Emirate," he added.

The announcement comes as representatives of the Afghan government and Taleban insurgents sat down for a new round of talks in Doha over the weekend, stirring hopes that the long stalled peace talks were being resuscitated.

For months, the two sides have been meeting on and off in the Qatari capital, but have achieved little if any notable success with the discussions appearing to have lost momentum as the militants made enormous gains on the battlefield.

Talks were due to resume on Sunday.

The Taleban leader said his group remained committed to forging a solution to end the war but slammed "the opposition parties" for "wasting time".

"Our message remains that instead of relying on foreigners, let us resolve our issues among ourselves and rescue our homeland from the prevailing crisis," he added.

Since early May, the Taleban have launched a staggering assault across Afghanistan's rugged countryside that has seen the group capturing scores of districts, border crossings and even attack a provincial capital.

The insurgents launched their latest offensive after US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal which is set to finish by the end of August following nearly 20 years of military involvement.

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