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Afghan 'jirga' endorses Taliban peace pact

Video by Siobhán SILKE

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-06-04

Tribal leaders gathered on the final day of a traditional assembly hosted by President Hamid Karzai have endorsed a peace plan offering an amnesty and job incentives to induce Taliban fighters to give up their armed struggle.

 
REUTERS - Afghan tribal elders and religious leaders formally endorsed President Hamid Karza’s proposals to seek peace with the Taliban to end nine years of war at a traditional assembly on Friday.
 
Karzai called the “peace jirga” to win national support for a peace plan consisting of offering an amnesty, cash and job incentives to Taliban foot soldiers while arranging asylum for top figures in a second country.
 
“We must initiate peace effort with full force,” said Qiyamuddin Kashaf, deputy chairman of the jirga reading out from the resolutions approved by the assembly in a heavily guarded tent in the west of the capital.
 
The 1,600 delegates, chosen to represent Afghan tribes, politics and geography, also urged the warring sides to declare a ceasefire to allow peace efforts to move forward.
 
The outcome of the conference was largely preordained, as the government had handpicked the delegates and broadly set the parameters of the discussion.
 
The jirga called for the establishment of a high commission to pursue peace efforts with the Taliban, who have grown into a deadly fighting force since their ouster in 2001 from U.S.  backed forces.
 
But there were few signs that the Taliban, who have dismissed the jirga as a phoney American-inspired show to perpetuate their involvement in the country, were ready to respond to the peace offer.
 
On Wednesday they attacked the opening of the jirga with rockets and gunfire just as Karzai was speaking inside a giant marquee in the west of the capital.
 
The Taliban want the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the country before any negotiations can begin. The insurgency is at its most intense at the moment and analysts say there is little reason for them to sue for peace.
 
“Basically, every effort by the invading foreigners including the convening of the jirga which is now being carried out on the demand of and under the shadow of the foreign troops is, in fact, aimed at securing the interests of the foreigners,” the Taliban said in a statement on their website.
 
PREORDAINED
 
Jirgas have been called at key moments in Afghanistan’s history such as whether to take part in the two World Wars or for the adoption of a post-Taliban constitution. Karzai is hoping that the latest jirga will not only endorse his peace bid, but also improve his approval ratings after years of misrule.
 
The Taliban and other insurgent factions were not invited while the opposition boycotted the meeting saying it didn’t represent the full spectrum of Afghan politics.
 
The United States plans to begin a troop pullout from July 2011, hoping to stabilise the country with a surge ordered by President Barack Obama in December.
 
The additional troops deployed to Afghanistan are preparing for an operation in the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar which military officials say may force them to reconsider their opposition to making peace.
 
Washington backs Karzai’s plan for trying to reintegrate Taliban foot soldiers back to the mainstream but is wary of any overtures to senior Taliban figures, some of whom, including supreme leader Mullah Omar, are on its most wanted list.
 
It would rather that the Taliban were put under pressure on the battlefield before reaching out to senior figures.

 

Date created : 2010-06-04

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