KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan officials on Wednesday denied being in regular talks with Taliban leaders, in response to an AP report based on documents showing that the intelligence chief speaks by telephone with militant leaders nearly every day.
National Security Adviser Mohammed Haneef Atmar issued a statement saying the Afghan government seeks peace but that all negotiations are handled by the High Peace Council. Atmar did not respond to questions sent by email before the story was published, which his office requested when he was first contacted for comment.
In a separate statement, Afghanistan's intelligence service denied its chief had contacts with Taliban leaders.
The AP report was based on documents describing the conversations that a senior Afghan security official showed the AP. The talks were held with Taliban leaders who were in Pakistan and the Gulf state of Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office.
In those documents the Taliban set out talking points that would seem to recognize the constitution and elections, a potential breakthrough in longtime peace efforts.
The Taliban talking points called for an interim government, with both sides holding on to the territory they controlled until polls could be held. While accepting women in schools and the workforce, they rejected the idea of a woman serving as president or on the Supreme Court.
The document also revealed a Taliban demand for special courts to oversee thousands of cases alleging that land was taken illegally by the rich and powerful in the post-Taliban era. Many of the landowners are former warlords who are now in the government. The Taliban wants the land returned to those from whom it was taken.
While Afghan officials said neither side was ready to agree to public peace talks, the documents revealed details of the issues discussed.
The Taliban also denied talking to representatives of Afghanistan's government. When the group was contacted by the AP prior to the article being published they refused to address specifics, saying only that they were not interested in talks.