Sunday, January 1, 2012

Karzai Welcomes Biden's Remark on Taliban

KABUL, Dec 31: Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Saturday welcomed US Vice President Joe Biden`s remarks that the Taliban `per se is not our enemy`.

Mr Biden`s comments to Newsweek magazine last week caused uproar in the US, which has been fighting a 10-year war against the Taliban-led militancy, but reflected an increasing focus on finding a political settlement.

`We are very happy that America has announced that Taliban are not their enemy.

This will bring peace and stability to the people of Afghanistan,` President Karzai said during a ceremony in Kabul.

Mr Karzai has agreed that if the United States wants to set up a Taliban address in Qatar to enable peace talks he will not stand in the way, aslong as Afghanistan is involved in the process. The September assassination of Karzai`s peace envoy, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, appeared to have derailed any prospects of progress in talks.

But recent unconfirmed reports suggest the US could be open to a deal which includes the transfer of Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. In the interview with Newsweek Biden emphasised the need for the Taliban to cut ties with Al Qaeda.

`We are in a position where if Afghanistan ceased and desisted from being a haven for people who do damage and have as a target the United States of America and their allies, that`s good enough,` he said.

As it pushes for a political settlement, the Afghan government has changed its tone towards the militants, referring to `terrorist` rather than `Taliban` attacks. Meanwhile, Nato troops on Saturday handed over responsibility for security in three districts of the embattled southern Helmand province to Afghan forces.

Helmand governor`s office said these included Marjah district the site of a major offensive by coalition forces last year. Coalition operations to rout the Taliban in February 2010 yielded slower than expected returns, but a troop buildup later in the year pushed militants out of the main centre of the district.

Nad Ali, which had been run by British troops, also transitioned from Nato to Afghan security control, a statement said.

Source: Pakistan Dawn

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