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Taliban of today are not those of Mullah Omar, must be brought to peace talks: Zakhilwal.

ISLAMABAD -- Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal on Saturday said the Taliban have largely devolved into groups of criminals and terrorists but they must be brought into the peace process.

In an interview with VOA Deewa in Islamabad, Zakhilwal said, 'Peace cannot be brokered under duress, but it needs good and positive intentions because there is no other way to resolve the conflict but to negotiate peace.

'To talk peace, we need to identify the enemy, his intentions and his goals.'

The Taliban, ousted in a US-led military intervention in 2001, has been gaining territory in recent years through a violent insurgency to try to topple Afghanistan's Western-backed government and re-establish a fundamentalist regime. Today, the country has made strides in catching up to the rest of the world, but conflict continues.

Heroin production in Taliban-controlled areas this year hit record highs, with the proceeds used to fuel the insurgency, leading to a new US offensive against drug labs. Other terror groups, like the Islamic State (IS), have infiltrated the borders and taken up residence.

However, Afghan leaders hope that some Taliban can be convinced to be pragmatic and act in the country's best interest by renouncing terrorism.

'The Taliban today are not the Taliban of Mullah Omar because they had some religious commitments and certain values,' Zakhilwal said. 'But today, the Taliban force is a mixture of drug barons, spreading fear; some are opposed to the government on one pretext or the other and there is a foreign hand involved as well. All these are to be scrutinised and engaged accordingly.'

'Those opponents who are not involved in terrorism can be accommodated, and all the conditions will be provided to take part in politics and enjoy all the rights as other Afghans,' the Afghan ambassador said.

'But peace with Da'ish is impossible, and, similarly, peace with other foreign terrorists invading Afghanistan like those Turkmans, Uzbeks, Chechens, Arabs, Chinese and Russians is out of the question,' Zakhilwal clarified.

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Publication:Regional Times (Karachi, Pakistan)
Geographic Code:9PAKI
Date:Dec 17, 2017
Words:387
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