KABUL – Afghanistan's president appealed to Taliban fighters Sunday to put down their weapons and accept Afghan laws as the government and its international allies push a program to entice militants away from the insurgency.
President Hamid Karzai spoke three days after he and Western backers agreed at a conference in London to create a more comprehensive program to bring Taliban insurgents over to the government's side in order to reduce violence that has raged in recent years.
Incentives have existed for years for the Taliban to lay down their weapons, but these have generally been ineffective, attracting only the lowest-level fighters with no guarantees they wouldn't return to the insurgency.
Karzai stressed he plans to reconcile with Taliban leaders as much as they are willing, but he made clear his offer of reconciliation did not extend to anyone in Al Qaeda, saying there was no room in Afghanistan for terrorists.
"We are trying our best to reach as high as possible to bring peace and security," Karzai said in his first news conference since returning from London.
Karzai has said previously he is willing to talk to Taliban leader Mullah Omar and welcome back any militants who are willing to recognize the Afghan constitution. However, the Taliban has always set the withdrawal of international troops as a precondition for any negotiations.
Karzai called that unrealistic, saying the NATO coalition should be expected to stay until they achieve their goal of removing Al Qaeda and other terrorist threats.
Afghanistan's international backers agreed in London to provide funding for a renewed effort to woo Taliban away from Al Qaeda and the insurgency, given the commitment of the Afghan government to institute a more comprehensive and thorough program, including jobs and education.