Taliban conflict: Militants refuse fresh Afghan peace talks

Alleged former Taliban fighters at a disarmament ceremony in Jalalabad, February 2016 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Taliban fighters have stepped up attacks against the Afghan military in recent months

The Taliban say they will not participate in new peace talks with the Afghan government until international forces leave the country.

Direct talks were expected to begin in Pakistan next week between the Taliban and Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US.

The Taliban have been waging an insurgency against the Afghan government since being ousted in 2001.

Talks between the two have been on hold since last year.

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group, made up of representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US, had insisted in February that talks would take place in early March.

But in a statement released on Saturday, the group rejected those reports.

"We reject all such rumours and unequivocally state that the leader of Islamic Emirate has not authorised anyone to participate in this meeting," the group said in a statement.

"(Islamic Emirate) once again reiterates that unless the occupation of Afghanistan is ended, black lists eliminated and innocent prisoners freed, such futile misleading negotiations will not bear any result", the statement added.

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The Taliban have stepped up their offensive against the Afghan government with a winter offensive, outside the usual fighting season.

The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil in Islamabad says the Afghan army has struggled to push them back, even with American air support.

The US has launched air strikes against Taliban positions, something the Taliban say must stop before talks are resumed.

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