Afghan government: cease-fire before Taliban talks
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Taliban insurgents must agree to a cease-fire before formal peace negotiations can begin in Qatar, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Monday
Presidential spokesman Emal Faizi insisted that the government will never give up territory to the insurgents.
Faizi laid out the government's terms days after the Taliban's announcement it would open a political office in Doha, Qatar, a key precursor to peace talks and the insurgents' first public move toward a political settlement to the 10-year-long war.
"When the talks start, there should be a cease-fire and the violence against the Afghan people must stop," Faizi said Monday on Tolo television news.
He dismissed as "baseless" speculation in Afghan media that the government might hand over predominantly Pashtun southern provinces to the Taliban in exchange for an end to the fighting.
"The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will never accept such suggestion from any side," he said
Faizi also said it is too soon to send a delegation to Qatar to discuss future talks.
Afghan High Peace Council member Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar said earlier Monday that the panel has asked the government to send a delegation to Doha "as soon as possible," but Faizi said the government has no immediate plans for such a trip.
The U.S. has been seeking to start negotiations as international troops begin to leave the country, according to plans to withdraw most foreign security forces by the end of 2014. Washington says any negotiations must be Afghan-led.
Debate over peace talks came as violence continued.
An American soldier was killed when man in an Afghan army uniform opened fire at a base in the south of the country, an Afghan military spokesman said Monday. Another American soldier was wounded in the Sunday attack. Earlier reports did not identify the nationality of the soldiers.
Spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the gunman was also killed in the shootout. "Right now, an investigation is going on to determine whether he really was a soldier or someone using an army uniform. And if he was a soldier, what caused the shooting," Azimi said.
Similar attacks have raised fears of increased Taliban infiltration of the Afghan police and army as NATO speeds up the training of the security forces. In some cases the attackers were Afghan soldiers who turned on NATO troops. Others involved insurgents dressed in Afghan uniforms.
The shooting brought to 11 the number of NATO soldiers killed this month.
NATO is encouraging the rapidly expanding Afghan security forces to take more responsibility ahead of the coalition's 2014 pullout target date. NATO's training mission hopes have about 350,000 Afghan troops and police trained and ready by then.
Also Monday, Taliban fighters ambushed a convoy carrying supplies for NATO in western Afghanistan, killing two private security guards and wounding three. Seven of the attacking insurgents were also killed, said deputy police chief Mohammad Ghaws Milyar.