Taliban 'reject offer of Afghan government posts'

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. 1 Jan 2015 Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Ashraf Ghani says he wants a government drawn from all parties

The Taliban have been offered posts in the new Afghan government but have turned them down, the BBC understands.

The offer came from new President Ashraf Ghani in a bid to end the insurgency that threatens the recovery of the country.

More than three months after coming into office, President Ghani is due to announce the shape of his cabinet.

The process has been delayed because of disagreements with President Ghani's partner, Abdullah Abdullah.

The president's spokesman has denied that the jobs were formally offered.

But a source close to President Ghani said the government should be drawn "not just from the two teams, but from all parties in Afghanistan".

The three men whom President Ghani had hoped to draw into his government were Mullah Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, who has lived relatively openly in Kabul for some years, Wakil Muttawakil, the former Taliban foreign minister, and Ghairat Baheer, a close relative of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, whose forces are allied to the Taliban.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Mullah Zaeef, pictured in 2001, was the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan

The ministerial posts earmarked for them were rural affairs, the borders, giving the Taliban responsibility for collecting customs, and the Hajj, the religious pilgrimage to Mecca.

There have also been negotiations over appointing Taliban governors to three southern provinces - Nimruz, Kandahar and Helmand.

This would have been the most contentious part of the deal for the international community. Most of the Nato casualties suffered in Afghanistan, including 453 British lives, were lost in an effort to keep the Taliban out of the south.

But the offer has been turned down. A source close to the Taliban leadership said security deals signed by the new government allowing some international troops to remain in Afghanistan when combat troops left at the end of 2014 were the main stumbling block.

The Taliban also want changes to the constitution and immunity from prosecution before they would enter negotiations on joining the government.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Taliban disagrees with deals allowing some Nato troops to remain in Afghanistan

But the offer of posts shows that Ashraf Ghani is a very different kind of president than his predecessor Hamid Karzai - willing to make bold and controversial gestures to secure change.

His supporters say that he has secured better co-operation with Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban inside their borders, and a number of Pakistani delegations have visited Kabul.

President Ghani has also called on China and Saudi Arabia to use their influence over Pakistan to improve relations.

But many of the same things were said when President Karzai came into office in 2002. And leaving aside the issue of whether the Taliban would be part of the new government, the long delay in announcing a cabinet has led to widespread concern, and damaged any prospects of an economic recovery.

A local group that has been monitoring the delivery of election campaign promises says that 83 remain untouched, and despite progress on more than 20 others, only four have been fully implemented.

It is not even clear that the involvement of the Taliban in government would have ended the insurgency, as some commanders remain opposed to any deals.

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