Wed, 21 Aug 2019

KABUL -- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has rejected foreign interference and called for the presidential election to be held next month as planned, amid talks between the United States and the Taliban aimed at bringing the nearly 18-year war in Afghanistan to an end.

'Without a legitimate and strong government that comes through an election, Afghans won't be able to achieve a dignified peace,' Ghani said in a televised speech on August 11 marking the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.

Ghani insisted that peace was only possible 'between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban movement.'

'Our future cannot be decided outside, he said, adding: 'The fate of Afghanistan will be decided here in this homeland. We don't want anyone to intervene in our affairs.'

Ghani made the comments as U.S. and Taliban negotiators appeared to be closing in on a peace agreement without the Western-backed government in Kabul at the table.

Both sides have cited 'progress' in their negotiations in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office.

Few details have emerged, but a U.S.-Taliban deal would cover the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees by the Taliban that Afghanistan would not become a haven for other extremist groups.

Such an accord would be followed by intra-Afghan peace negotiations on a political settlement and a permanent cease-fire.

Washington has said it wants a deal finalized by September 1, and some U.S. officials have hinted at the possibility that the presidential polls scheduled for September 28 could be canceled in the event of a peace settlement and the formation of an interim government that the Taliban would join.

In his August 11 speech, Ghani said: 'We don't want a peace in which Afghans wouldn't have dignity. We don't want a peace that would cause people to leave their country. We don't want brain drain and we don't want investment drain.'

Meanwhile, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen issued a statement expressing hope that Afghanistan 'will celebrate future Eids under the Islamic system, without occupation, under an environment of permanent peace and unity.'

The Taliban has so far refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, calling it a 'puppet regime.'

On August 6, the militants denounced the presidential vote as a 'sham,' and warned fellow Afghans to stay away from campaign rallies and the polls, saying such gatherings could be targeted.

With reporting by AP and dpa

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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