KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — An Afghan government body seeking a negotiated peace deal with the Taliban insisted Monday it would not tolerate foreign interference in any talks.
The head of the foreign relations department of the High Peace Council, Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar, emphasized the government's position in reaction to Afghan media reports that the U.S. and other foreign governments with a stake in the war may try to strike a separate deal with the Taliban.
"Afghans must be in the lead in the talks," Qasimyar told The Associated Press. "No foreign involvement in the Afghan peace talks is acceptable."
The peace council is a group of about 70 influential Afghans and former Taliban appointed by President Hamid Karzai to try to reconcile with the insurgents. The former head of the council, Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated on Sept. 20. Rabbani, a former president of Afghanistan, was killed by a suicide bomber posing as a peace emissary from the Taliban.
After Rabbani's death, Karzai said peace efforts could only take place if the Taliban established a political office that would be authorized to conduct talks on a peaceful end to the 10-year war. He proposed that it be set up in Saudi Arabia or in Turkey if the insurgent movement did not want to establish it in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have not publicly responded to Karzai's demands. The insurgents, who perceive themselves as winning the war, have repeatedly said they would not engage in peace talks with the government while foreign troops remain on Afghan soil.
On Monday, the Taliban repeated that they were confident of ultimate victory and said that the NATO forces would face the same fate as the Soviet invaders who withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989 after an almost decade-long war.
The insurgents "are successfully withstanding all the coalition forces led by the U.S. invaders and will make them all face the same fate that befell the Red Army," said statement marking the 32nd anniversary of the Soviet invasion in 1979.
Meanwhile, a gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire on coalition troops in western Afghanistan, military authorities said Monday. Several coalition troops were wounded and the gunman was killed, said an official who asked not to be named because the investigation was ongoing.
The shooting took place Saturday at an outpost in Bala Boluk district, about 340 miles (700 kilometers) west of Kabul, said Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi. A NATO statement said there were no fatalities among alliance soldiers.
If the probe confirms the gunman was a soldier, the shooting would be the latest in a series of attacks by Afghans against coalition partners. Those shootings have raised fears of Taliban infiltration as NATO speeds up the training of Afghan security forces.
The expansion of the army and police is a critical element in NATO's exit strategy from Afghanistan.
Coalition troops are to end their combat role in 2014, and the goal is to have 195,000 trained Afghan troops in service by next October.
Slobodan Lekic can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/slekich