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Afghanistan president offers passports to Taliban in bid to strike peace deal

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has called on the Taliban to take part in peace talks to "save the country," offering security and incentives such as passports to insurgents who join the negotiations.

Key points:

  • Taliban insurgents could be recognised as a legitimate political group
  • Taliban prisoners could be released as part of a peace deal
  • The insurgents say the US must recognise the conflict cannot be solved militarily

The President said he was willing to recognise Taliban insurgents as a legitimate political group as part of the proposed political process that could lead to talks aimed at ending more than 16 years of war.

"We are making this offer without any preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement," Mr Ghani said in opening remarks to the second Kabul Process Conference attended by officials from around 25 countries.

Mr Ghani proposed a ceasefire and a release of prisoners.

He also said he would be ready to accept a review of the constitution as part of a pact with the Taliban, which has so far refused to accept direct talks with the government in Kabul.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and delegates stand for the national anthem

The United States last year stepped up its military assistance to Afghanistan, notably through a sharp increase in air strikes, with the aim of breaking a stalemate with the insurgents and forcing them to the negotiating table.

Mr Ghani said the Afghan government would provide passports and issue visas to Taliban members and their families and open an office for them in Kabul.

He said his government would also work to remove sanctions against Taliban leaders.

"The Afghan government must be accepting and we will also work on the list of freeing Taliban prisoners," he said.

Increased violence

A resurgent Taliban has been blamed for much of the increased violence in Afghanistan since US and NATO forces concluded combat missions in 2014.

The recent attacks have underscored the weaknesses of Afghan security forces more than 16 years after the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban.

Five Pakistani Taliban fighters with their faces covered holding guns.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Alice Wells has said the United States had kept the door open to dialogue with the Taliban.

In a statement Monday, the Taliban called on US officials to talk directly to their political office regarding a peaceful solution to the fighting.

"It would help in finding a solution if America accepts the legitimate demands of the Afghan people and forward its own concerns and requests for discussion to the Islamic Emirate through a peaceful channel," the statement said.

The Taliban said in the statement the US must recognise that the conflict cannot be solved militarily.

Over the weekend in western Farah province, at least 18 soldiers were killed when their checkpoint came under attack by Taliban insurgents, two other soldiers were wounded in the attack in the Bala Buluk district, according to defence ministry officials.

On January 27, a Taliban attacker drove an ambulance filled with explosives into the heart of the city, killing at least 103 people and wounding as many as 235.

The Taliban claimed the ambulance attack, as well as an attack a week prior in which militants stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing 22 people, including 14 foreigners, and setting off a 13-hour battle with security forces.

Mr Ghani also called on government-to-government talks with Pakistan.

This is the second Kabul Process Conference; the first was held in June last year.

Special forces soldier

AP/Reuters

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