President Ashraf Ghani on Monday signalled a major shift in Afghanistan’s policy on the Taliban, saying he expects Pakistan to battle the militant group instead of bringing it to the negotiating table.
In an address to a joint session of parliament a week after a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul killed 64 people and injured 340, Ghani asked Islamabad to take action against all militant groups using Pakistani soil to target Afghanistan.
The leadership of the Taliban is based in the Pakistani cities of Quetta and Peshawar, from where they coordinate and launch attacks in Afghanistan, he said.
“I want to make it clear that we no longer expect Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table” despite having relied on it in the past to do so, Ghani said.
“But we expect them to launch a military operation against their sanctuaries and leadership based on their soil. If they can’t target them they should hand them over to our judiciary.”
There are “no good or bad terrorists, they are just terrorists” and “Pakistan must understand that and act against them”, Ghani said. He warned that Afghanistan will approach the UN Security Council and other world bodies to lodge complaints if Pakistan doesn’t act.
The doors to peace will be open only to factions of the Taliban “who are ready to end bloodshed”, Ghani said. But he added that “the door will not be open forever”.
The Taliban “will suffer in the battlefield and eventually request for peace talks”, he said.
The Afghan government, he added, has “ended its efforts in calling for peace and will now use all its resources to defend the country”. The “time for unjustified amnesty” has ended and terrorists will be executed, he said.
Ghani described the enemies of Afghanistan as “alien hireling groups like Daesh, Al Qaeda, the murderous Haqqani Network and some Taliban who enjoy shedding their countrymen’s blood”.
Afghanistan has seen a major spike in violence since the Taliban launched their annual spring offensive earlier this month. Ghani’s remarks reflected his frustration after he expended substantial political capital since coming to power in 2014 in courting Pakistan in the hope of pressuring the Taliban to the negotiating table.
The Pakistani government recently admitted after years of official denial that the Taliban leadership enjoys safe haven inside the country.