Govt Has Been 'Sidelined' From Peace Talks: Ibrahimi

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The Taliban have rejected Kabul's offer of talks next month in Saudi Arabia where they will meet USA officials to further peace efforts, a Taliban leader said on Sunday.

Many Afghans are anxious that President Ashraf Ghani's fragile unity government would collapse if USA troops pulled out, enabling the Taliban to return to power and potentially sparking another bloody civil war.

The fifth round of talks between the U.S. officials and Taliban representatives will be held in Jeddah within the next few days.

Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, the Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga, Lower House of Parliament, who is also member of the High Advisory Board for Peace, said the Afghan government has been "sidelined" from the peace talks.

Asked whether the mission against the Taliban had reached a stalemate, Gen. Scott Miller, commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, told CNN: "This fight will go until a political settlement".

This latest assault comes a few days after US officials and Taliban held "secret parleys" in UAE which was followed by President Trump announcing withdrawal of 7,000 troops from Afghanistan.

Islamabad also views this development as hugely significant and last week it sent its foreign minister to Afghanistan, China, Russia and Iran to discuss various options for a peaceful transition in Kabul.

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Reports of the withdrawal are unconfirmed but they have triggered alarm among many Afghans with bitter memories of the Taliban's ultra-hardline regime.

"I don't think their mindset has changed, but they have realized that without respecting human rights, they can not be accepted by the global community", Bilal Sediqi, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, told Reuters.

But they insist that as well as the withdrawal of foreign forces, there will be a return to their strict version of Islamic rule and many Afghans doubt their claims to have softened, even while yearning for an end to the war.

"I know there is no place for me if the Taliban return in their old style", said Abdul, a 12-year police veteran now working in the western province of Farah.

Both the Taliban and the US are exhausted of war. That does not mean they are not willing to fight; they have sustained a record number of casualties that some USA military officials say is unsustainable if they assumed the responsibility of their own country. "They are also exhausted of war". We see changes among them.

Not all Afghans believe the Taliban is changing, accusing the group of just putting on a show to earn people's trust.

Washinton, December 30 (Dawn): President Donald Trump's plan toreduce USA troops in Afghanistanhas set off alarm bells in India with experts suggesting New Delhi change its hostile attitude towards Taliban who in the new situation could gain significant influence in the war-ravaged country.

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