Taliban dialogue needed, says Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered ceasefires and the potential for some control in government to certain Taliban members on Monday ahead of next month's presidential election.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai offered ceasefires and the potential for some control in government to certain Taliban members on Monday ahead of next month's presidential election.

Karzai said he is willing to open a dialogue with some Taliban who are not affiliated with al-Qaeda or foreign intelligence agencies in an effort to reintegrate them into Afghan society.

Those Taliban must first publicly renounce violence and endorse peace, Karzai said.

Karzai, who is seeking a second term, is considered the leading contender in the 39-candidate field for the Aug. 20 election.

There are several Afghans who have publicly expressed that they would vote for the Taliban if they could, said CBC News correspondent James Murray.

"It's these key voters that Hamid Karzai is reaching out to," Murray said. "Almost everyone believes the end game involves some form of negotiation with the Taliban."

Ceasefire agreement

Government officials announced on Monday a ceasefire had been reached with a Taliban commander controlling the Bala Morghab district in the northwestern province of Badghis.

The Afghan government has little control in the region and the agreement is meant to help facilitate the election.

The agreement, which was reached with the help of tribal elders, will allow a road construction project to move forward and for presidential candidates to open offices in the region ahead of the election, said Seyamak Herawi, a spokesman in Karzai's office.

"As long as the ceasefire holds, the government does not have the intention to attack the Taliban and the Taliban can also take part in the elections," Herawi told Reuters.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi rejected the idea of opening a dialogue with Karzai, saying there would be no ceasefire with any government that was a "servant of the foreigners."

No timeline for withdrawal

Karzai said that he will not call for a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces in Afghanistan, which has been a key demand from Taliban for peace talks to begin.

The presence of international forces is in the Afghan national interest and will help minimize civilian causalities and disruptions, he said.

"I would advise the Taliban not to ask for the exit of international forces in Afghanistan because that is not in the interest of the Afghan people," Karzai said.

Both sides should instead work toward a relationship in which foreign troops show greater sensitivity to Afghan culture and the Afghans display "better management of governmental affairs," he said.

Karzai has previously been criticized for embracing some of Afghanistan's most notorious warlords, including his vice-presidential running mate Mohammad Qasim Fahim, and his defence adviser, Gen. Rashid Dostum, who has been accused of killing hundreds of Taliban prisoners in 2001.

With files from The Associated Press