Kerry urges Taliban to choose 'honourable' peace
Hekmatyar's deal requires him to stop violence, end ties with 'international terrorist organisations' and accept Afghanistan's constitution including guarantees of rights for women, Kerry said. Photograph: (Getty)
US secretary of state John Kerry on Wednesday urged Afghanistan's Taliban militants to follow the recent example of a notorious warlord and make an "honourable" peace with the Kabul government.
Kerry said a peace deal signed last month by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who heads the Hezb-i-Islami group and is designated a global terrorist by the United States, was a "model for what might be possible".
"There is a path toward an honourable end to the conflict that the Taliban have waged, it is a conflict that cannot be won on the battlefield," Kerry told an international donor conference in Brussels.
Hekmatyar's deal requires him to stop violence, end ties with "international terrorist organisations" and accept Afghanistan's constitution including guarantees of rights for women, Kerry said. In return the group "will be able to emerge from the shadows to rejoin Afghan society". He added: "The message for the Taliban would be: take note."
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who signed the pact with Hekmatyar, told the Brussels conference: "Afghans can make peace, we will make peace, we are committed to constructive politics, not destructive politics."
Hekmatyar, widely known as the "butcher of Kabul" in Afghanistan, was a prominent anti-Soviet commander in the 1980s who stands accused of killing thousands of people in the Afghan capital during the 1992-1996 civil war.
He is the latest in a series of controversial figures that Kabul has sought to reintegrate in the post-Taliban era by granting judicial immunity for past crimes. But the Taliban themselves have resisted any peace deal and continue to push on with offensives, including against the Afghan city of Kunduz this week.
Kerry added that a peace deal would in fact achieve the Taliban's aim of expelling foreign forces from Afghanistan, 15 years after a US-led invasion drove the Islamist group from power.
"A political settlement negotiated with the Afghan government is the only way to end the fighting, ensure lasting stability, and achieve a full drawdown of international military forces, which is their goal," he said. "Their goal of ridding Afghanistan of external forces will not come by the continued insurgency, it will come by peace."
Around 9,800 US troops remain in Afghanistan, although numbers have reduced dramatically from their peak of 140,000 NATO-led soldiers in 2011. The Brussels conference is aimed at securing funding for Afghanistan for the next four years until 2020.