On Sunday, The Observer cited sources who reported that the Taliban and the Afghan government were engaged in a “wide-ranging peace-process” aimed at ending the seven year conflict. The talks were reportedly sponsored by the Saudi Arabian government and are aimed at driving a wedge between al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
It was unclear from the report how long the negotiations, which the British government reportedly provided support for, have been going on, but it cites unnamed Afghan officials who say the talks have lost momentum. Afghan Foreign Minister Spanta declined comment at a news conference, saying “I deny there is any contact between the Foreign Ministry and the Taliban about the negotiations.”
The Taliban, on the other hand, issued a more direct denial that any talks were ongoing, claiming the report was a plot aimed at creating mistrust between them and their supporters. They also said in the statement “our struggle will continue until the withdrawal of foreign forces and the establishment of an independent Islamic government.”
To that end, Taliban leader Mullah Omar issued a statement via militant websites offering to arrange “a reasonable opportunity” for the safe departure of foreign troops if they abandon the occupation. He warned that if international forces declined the offer they would face the same fate as the Soviet Union, whose decade long occupation ended in eventual defeat and withdrawal.