KABUL (Dispatches) – The Taliban’s chief Hibatullah Akhundzada on Sunday said he ‘strenuously favors’ a political settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan even as the movement has launched a sweeping offensive across the nation.
The announcement comes as representatives of the Afghan government and Taliban militants sat down for a new round of talks in Doha over the weekend, stirring hopes that the long stalled talks were being resuscitated.
“In spite of the military gains and advances, the Taliban strenuously favor a political settlement in the country,” Akhundzada said in a message released ahead of next week’s Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
“Every opportunity for the establishment of a system, peace and security that presents itself will be made use of by the Taliban,” he added.
For months, the two sides have been meeting on and off in the Qatari capital, but have achieved little if any notable success with the discussions appearing to have lost momentum as the militants made enormous gains on the battlefield.
Akhundzada said the Taliban remained committed to forging a solution to end the war but slammed “the opposition parties” for “wasting time.”
“Our message remains that instead of relying on foreigners, let us resolve our issues among ourselves and rescue our homeland from the prevailing crisis,” Akhundzada added.
Talks between the Taliban and Kabul, obligated under a deal between the U.S. and the militant group in Doha last year, have made very little progress so far.
The militants have intensified attacks across Afghanistan after the United States missed an initial May 1 deadline for a complete withdrawal of American forces from the country.
That has brought the United States and its NATO allies under scrutiny for having failed to stabilize the security situation in Afghanistan after two decades of war and occupation.
The Taliban are now claiming to have seized control of scores of districts and several important border crossings. The militants have also laid siege to a string of vital provincial capitals.
Meanwhile, a Russian media source has alleged that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and his American counterpart, Joe Biden, have discussed the possibility of exchanging information on the conflict in Afghanistan and the use of Russian military bases to monitor the situation in the war-ravaged country.
The Russian Kommersant daily newspaper reported on Saturday that negotiations between the two presidents to “coordinate actions” in Afghanistan had taken place at their June 16 summit meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva.
Citing a source familiar with the talks, the business paper said the discussions included a proposal by Putin to use Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, possibly to exchange information obtained by surveillance drones.
The U.S. “has not yet given a clear answer,” according to the source.