Afghan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah on Friday said the doors were open for talks with the rebel Taliban against the backdrop of the US announcing a reworked South Asia policy that promises to stay the course in the war-torn country and seemingly putting talks with the insurgent group on the back burner.
In New Delhi on a two-day visit, Abdullah also called on countries in the neighbourhood not to make any distinction between the Islamic State, which had established a presence in some provinces of Afghanistan, and the Taliban who have been fighting the US-backed Ashraf Ghani government in Kabul.
In an address to the Indian Council on World Affairs think tank, Abdullah welcomed the revamped US policy on Afghanistan but also stressed the importance of unity within the various sections of Afghan society.
Abdullah said that the “doors for peace talks will always be open... hopefully the groups that are fighting will be convinced to sever links with terrorism and terror networks and to work for their own country".
In his speech last month outlining the new US policy on Afghanistan, Trump had said that “someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but nobody knows if or when that will ever happen".
According to a Washington Post report last month, two US officials clarified after Trump’s speech that a military “win" in Afghanistan could include peace talks with the Taliban, in an attempt to assuage Afghan concerns that the new policy was focused almost entirely on fighting the Taliban.
There have been no direct peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban and several efforts to get the two sides to the negotiating table have floundered.
Abdullah noted that after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US, there was a broad consensus on the strategy to follow in Afghanistan. “Today, there are slight changes. There are new threats that have emerged including Daesh (Islamic State). Some countries perceive Daesh as the main threat. As far as Afghanistan is concerned... we have not made differences between good terrorists and bad terrorists. Terror is terror."
The comments come against the backdrop of some countries deeming the Islamic State a greater threat than the Taliban and providing the latter with weapons.
Abdullah also slammed Pakistan for its support to various terrorist groups, stating that the time had come for Islamabad to take a “fundamental" decision that no country should be allowed to use terror as an instrument of foreign policy.
“We have some serious challenges in our relations with Pakistan. There are (terror) groups which are threatening security of Afghanistan and based there and continue to be based there... That is a very serious challenge for us. That is a big challenge for the whole region," said Abdullah.
On Afghanistan’s diplomatic engagements and its ties with countries in its neighbourhood, Abdullah said his country will not allow any nation to dictate its foreign policy.
“No country has the right of veto over our relationship" with another country, he said.