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Taliban shrug off peace talks

With the Taliban shrugging off the Afghan government's latest offers of a cease-fire and negotiations, peace seems as elusive as it has been for decades in this war-battered country, both for troops on the front lines and for civilians facing frequent attacks.

The Taliban have been gaining more ground in their annual spring offensive, ignoring President Ashraf Ghani's calls for talks. Hoping to end the nearly 17-year war, he had offered unprecedented incentives, including passports for insurgents and their families.

Ghani had also offered to work toward removing international sanctions against the group's leaders and allowing the Taliban to open official headquarters in the capital, Kabul.

But for that to happen, he stressed, a cease-fire must first be agreed on and the Taliban have to become a political group rather than an armed insurgency.

In June, the Taliban accepted a three-day cease-fire over the Eid al-Fitr holiday that caps the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, a first for the group, but rejected a subsequent government call to extend it.

They maintain the only talks they would take part in would be with the United States on their key demand: the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid recently reiterated the insurgents' standing line that "the Americans are the ones continuing the war, supporting our enemies and bombing our country."



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