Afghan peace jirga backs Karzai Taliban talks proposal

Image caption,
The Taliban and other militant groups were not represented at the jirga

Afghan tribal leaders have endorsed President Hamid Karzai's plan to seek peace with the Taliban, on the final day of national peace talks in Kabul.

The "peace jirga" ended by backing an amnesty and job incentives to induce militants to give up arms.

But disagreements remained after the three-day meeting over the details of what the Taliban should be offered.

Correspondents say there are few signs that the Taliban are ready to agree to any deal.

The jirga is being seen as the start of what will be a long and complex process, says the BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul.

The gathering - which was boycotted by opposition politicians and had no Taliban representation - was marked by fierce debate on Mr Karzai's plan to end the country's nine-year civil war.

It will be up to the Afghan government to decide which of the jirga's recommendations it chooses to implement, says our correspondent, but most Afghans and Western officials think any deal with the Taliban is a long way off.

The group has said in the past that it would negotiate with the government only once foreign troops had left the country.

The Taliban have been waging a battle to overthrow the US-backed government and expel the 130,000 foreign troops there.

Amnesty plan

The jirga called on the authorities and international forces to guarantee the safety of former Taliban members, and release those being held in American and Afghan prisons.

Image caption,
The three-day conference ended in Kabul on Friday

It also backed the president's proposals to offer an amnesty and reintegration incentives to low-level Taliban who accept the constitution, while removing the names of Taliban leaders from a UN blacklist saying they should be killed or captured.

Mr Karzai had suggested offering certain leaders asylum in another Islamic country for the purpose of holding peace talks.

"Now the path is clear, the path that has been shown and chosen by you, we will go on that step-by-step and this path will Inshallah, take us to our destination," Mr Karzai told the gathering of 1,600 tribal leaders.

While it concluded with an endorsement of Mr Karzai's proposals in principle, the BBC's Martin Patience in Kabul says there was disagreement over the details of what the militants should be offered.

Rocket attack

Security was tight at the venue after Taliban militants tried to attack the meeting when it opened on Wednesday.

Image caption,
Some 1,600 delegates are participating in the jirga

Three rockets landed close to the meeting place in the Afghan capital. Officials said two attackers were killed and one captured.

Some 1,600 delegates at the jirga - including tribal elders, religious leaders and members of parliament from all over the country - were far outnumbered by the 12,000 security personnel guarding against attacks.

On the eve of the conference, the Taliban issued a statement saying that the jirga did not represent the Afghan people and was aimed at securing the interest of foreigners.

Another insurgent group, Hizb-i-Islami, led by ex-Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, called the conference a "useless exercise".

Meanwhile, Nato, US and Afghan forces are preparing their biggest offensive against the rebels in the southern province of Kandahar.

Foreign troop numbers are set to peak at 150,000 by August before US President Barack Obama starts a planned withdrawal of troops in July 2011.