Addressing the opening of Parliament on Sunday after the winter break, President Ashraf Ghani said the “Taliban is facing a major test – to choose whether they want peace or war.”
“Peace is in the interests of both us and the Taliban,” Ghani said. “Real peace cannot come from behind closed doors.”
His comments come a day after the Taliban refused to hold direct peace talks with the Afghan government, dealing a blow to international efforts to revive long-stalled negotiations aimed at ending the deadly 14-year insurgency.
The announcement, which comes as face-to-face talks were expected to start in Islamabad this week, stressed longstanding preconditions for dialogue including the departure of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s seemingly intractable position follows a string of military victories for the insurgent group after NATO formally ended its combat operations more than a year ago.
“We want to repeat our stance once again that until the occupation of foreign troops ends, until Taliban names are removed from international blacklists and until our detainees are released, talks will yield no results,” the group said in a statement.
However, Ghani said that it is not a civil war in Afghanistan, Afghans are all brothers, and it is “indeed imposed war.”
He rejects allegations that the leadership lacks the will to fight insurgents and said that the cooperation between the security forces has improved in the past year.
“The enemy suffered major casualties in winter at the hands of forces fighting insurgents in provinces including Baghlan and Ghazni.”
Ghani also says that Afghanistan is the only country where Daesh is on the run and “it will become a grave for them.”
He calls on citizens to support the national defense and security forces and added that Afghanistan has been able to receive international support for the long-term and added that the “Warsaw meeting will be held soon and support for security forces will be pledged.”
On Afghanistan and Pakistan relations, he said that one of the factors of violence is that “Afghanistan and Pakistan have been in an undeclared war.”
“Afghanistan and Pakistan are both suffering terrorism, so we need to reach an agreement.”
Ghani also warned the country it “should be ready for a worse situation but we have hopes for peace.”
Before this, the U.S. President Barack Obama, during a video conference call with Ghani on Friday, welcomed Ghani’s recent efforts for direct talks with Taliban – which is expected to be held in mid-March.
During the video conference call, Obama was joined by Afghan government’s CEO Abdullah Abdullah and the U.S. First Vice President Joe Biden.
Obama also “underscored U.S. support for a peace process that reduces violence and ensures lasting stability in Afghanistan and the region,” said the White House in a statement.
He maintained that a stable Afghanistan was a vital need to ensure longstanding peace and security in the region.
In addition, the U.S. leader applauded the capabilities of Afghan forces in confronting the militants in the country.
The recent development in Afghan reconciliation program with Taliban came after officials from Afghanistan, the United States, Pakistan and China met last month in Kabul to pave grounds for face-to-face talks between the Afghan government and Taliban.
They said after the meeting that the talks would be held in Pakistan’s capital city of Islamabad.
The peace negotiation process stalled this past summer after it was revealed that the Taliban’s longtime leader Mullah Omar had been dead for two years.