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Afghan Taliban Snubs Peace Talks


The Afghan Taliban has refused to hold direct peace talks with Afghan authorities, days before the beginning of international talks aimed at bringing an end to 14 years of insurgency.

A Taliban spokesman said in a March 5 statement that the insurgents will not participate in peace negotiations unless foreign forces stop attacking their positions and withdraw from Afghanistan.

The announcement comes just days before direct talks were scheduled to begin in Islamabad.

"We want to repeat our stance once again that until the occupation of foreign troops ends, until Taliban names are removed from international blacklists, and until our detainees are released, talks will yield no results," the group said in a statement.

China, Pakistan, and the United States had been working with the weak Afghan government to restart negotiations aimed at ending the violence.

It also comes as Taliban fighters have racked up a string of military victories in southern Helmand Province and elsewhere after NATO formally ended its combat operations more than a year ago.

Afghan security forces have suffered record casualties since NATO ended its combat mission in December 2014, leaving them to battle the resurgent Taliban largely on their own.

In addition to seizing territory in the opium-growing province of Helmand, the Taliban briefly captured the northern city of Kunduz.

In a sign of growing concern, the United States recently bolstered its forces in Helmand, in an effort to fortify the Afghan military positions there.

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