Afghanistan launches new round of peace talks Taliban say they advocate political solution to conflict as they step up offensive

Taliban leader Akhundzada said Sunday (July 18) he advocated a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan as the country’s hardline Islamist movement, the Taliban, launched an all-out offensive. This comes a day after a new round of talks between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Qatari capital of Doha, raising hopes that the long-stalled peace talks are beginning to recover. Talks between the two sides continued Sunday.

In a statement issued ahead of the Gurban festival (Eid al-Adha), which begins next week, Akundza said that despite the progress of the military offensive, the Islamic Emirate (Taliban regime) still fights for a political solution in Afghanistan and will use every opportunity to fight for an Islamic system as well as peace and security, according to AFP.

For months, the Afghan government and the Taliban have been holding intermittent peace talks in Doha, but little progress has been made. And with the Taliban making great gains on the battlefield, the momentum for any success in the peace talks has lost momentum.

Taliban insurgent forces have taken advantage of the final phase of the withdrawal of U.S. and other nations from Afghanistan to launch lightning-fast offensives across vast areas of the country. The Taliban are now believed to have taken control of about half of Afghanistan’s more than 400 districts, several key border gates, and surrounded the capitals of some key provinces.

Reports say doubts remain about how firm the Taliban leadership’s grip on field commanders is and whether they can be persuaded to abide by potential agreements reached. Taliban leader Akundza’s statement did not respond to calls for a formal cease-fire during the Gurban holiday.

The U.S.-led military coalition entered Afghanistan to fight the Taliban regime that harbors al-Qaida terrorists after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. As the U.S. enters the final phase of its withdrawal from Afghanistan, there are concerns that Afghan government forces, deprived of critical air support provided by U.S. forces, could be overwhelmed by Taliban forces, causing the Taliban to take over the country completely or plunge Afghanistan into a multi-party civil war.

Also according to Reuters, local officials said about 12,000 families in Takhar in northern Afghanistan have been forced to flee their homes for shelter by the latest fighting. Some told reporters that their lives on the run have been extremely difficult, with a lack of food and other supplies.

The U.N. refugee agency estimates that some 270,000 Afghans have fled their homes since January, bringing the number of displaced Afghans to 3.5 million.