Taleban slams Afghan president’s proposal for new election

KABUL (AFP) – The Taleban yesterday rejected a proposal by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to hold elections later this year, after months of peace talks between the two warring sides have made little progress.

Although he hasn’t made details public, Ghani will announce the election plan at a stakeholder conference in Turkey next month, according to two government officials. The move is likely an attempt to undercut a United States (US) proposal – supported by Russia – for the formation of an interim government involving the Taleban to rule the country once the last US troops withdraw.

“The government will go to Turkey with a plan for an early election which is a fair plan for the future of Afghanistan,” one senior official told AFP. The Taleban immediately rejected the proposal.

“Such processes (elections) have pushed the country to the verge of crisis in the past,” Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said of Ghani’s plan.

“They are now talking about a process that has always been scandalous,” he told AFP, saying any decision on the country’s future must be hammered out in ongoing talks between the two sides.

“We will never support it.”

The US is due to withdraw the last of its troops by May 1 under a deal hammered out with the Taleban last year, although President Joe Biden said earlier this month the deadline would be “tough” to meet.

That deal also paved the way for the Taleban and Afghan government to negotiate a peace plan and hammer out an agreement on how the country should be ruled, but those talks – held since September in Doha, Qatar – have made little headway.

The Taleban’s response comes hours after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told NATO that Washington is still weighing up whether to withdraw its troops by the May 1 deadline.