KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – Taliban militants rejected an offer of peace talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, saying Monday there would be no negotiations until foreign troops leave Afghanistan.
Karzai offered Sunday to provide security for reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar if he enters negotiations and said the U.S. and other Western nations could leave Afghanistan or oust him if they disagree.
But Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said there could be no talks while foreign troops are in the country.
"The Taliban's [leadership] decided they will not take part in any peace talks with Karzai or Karzai's administration until such a day when foreign forces leave Afghanistan," Mujahid told the Associated Press.
"The Taliban will pursue jihad against foreign forces and [Karzai's] government," he said, while speaking from an undisclosed location.
Karzai has dismissed the demand for foreign troops to leave, saying they are needed to keep Afghanistan safe.
The Afghan president has long supported drawing the Islamist militia into the political mainstream if they accept the country's constitution and repudiate Al Qaeda. But his repeated offers to talk could also be aimed at portraying the insurgents as bent on violence instead of potentially legitimate rulers.
U.S. political and military leaders are also considering negotiating with some elements of the Taliban as the insurgency gains sway in large areas of Afghanistan, especially its south and east. Afghanistan is going through its worst violence since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban government in 2001.
In the past, no senior Taliban leader has publicly indicated the hard-line Islamist movement is willing to enter serious talks with what they call Karzai's "puppet government."
Mujahid said the peace overtures are a political ploy by Karzai ahead of next years planned presidential elections.
"Why did he not ask for these negotiations seven years ago?" Mujahid said. "Now it is useless to ask for peace negotiations. It is just part of his election campaign."