KABUL, Afghanistan – About 2,000 protesters gathered Thursday to criticize President Hamid Karzai's willingness to start peace talks with the Taliban.
Two former high-ranking Afghan officials, speaking at the protest, said Karzai is wrong to reach out to the Taliban and also was too beholden to neighboring Pakistan — where Osama bin Laden had been hiding until his death three days ago in a U.S. raid.
"We have not forgotten the burning of our homeland and the humiliation of the men and women of Afghanistan," said former intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh, referring to the Taliban. "But you (Karzai) are still calling these people 'brother.'"
Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's former foreign minister and his opponent in Afghanistan's 2009 presidential election, said the president was "losing his way."
"The Taliban are joining with the terrorists by the order of the foreign intelligence, yet everyday Karzai is apologizing to them," said Abdullah. "The majority of the Afghan people wants peace, but peace at what price? Peace with whom, and for what purpose?"
Karzai and the Obama administration have said they will negotiate with any member of the Taliban who embraces the Afghan constitution, renounces violence and severs ties with al-Qaida. Informal contacts have been made in recent months with high-ranking Taliban figures, but no formal peace talks are under way.
Some Afghans believe that the Taliban will never submit to such conditions and should not be considered a negotiating partner.
Karzai and U.S. diplomats have sought Pakistan's involvement in peace talks. However, the Taliban's long-standing ties with Pakistan and the recent discovery of bin Laden hiding there has led some to question Pakistan's commitment to peace in Afghanistan.