Govt. should be cautious of giving up too much to end war: Masood
If the peace process is not clear, then peace cannot be successful: Mohaqiq
KABUL - Prominent Afghan opposition leaders said Friday that they support possible US-brokered peace negotiations with Taliban militants, but want to be part of any talks.
Members of a coalition representing Afghanistan National Front (ANF) spoke as they returned from a conference in Berlin, where they met with US congressional leaders. Most of the delegation fought in the Northern Alliance against the Taliban government in the 1990s.
Minority support for any peace process is crucial because many former Northern Alliance figures wield power and influence, raising the possibility of civil strife if they don't approve of a deal with their long-time enemy.
Prominent Tajik leader and ex-vice president Ahmad Zia Masood said that he supports peace talks, but added that the government should be cautious of giving up too much to end the decade-long war. Most international troops are scheduled to withdraw by 2014, making achieving a negotiated peace an urgent priority.
"The achievements we have gained in the last 10 years, we shouldn't let go of them," Masood said.
Masood is a prominent leader of the Afghan National Front opposition coalition and the brother of slain Northern Alliance chief Ahmad Shah Masood, considered a national hero by anti-Taliban forces.
Prominent Hazara leader Mohammad Muhaqiq said minority leaders should participate in any future talks.
"If the government is going to start a peace process, then we should also be in this process because we also represent part of the nation," he said. "If the peace process is not clear, then peace cannot be successful."
A spokesman for former Northern Alliance general Abdul Rashid Dostum said Friday that he is also in favor of peace talks despite earlier skeptical comments.
Dostum, a powerful Uzbek leader was quoted in Berlin as saying it would be "naive" to exclude the possibility that the Taliban are using negotiations to assuage the US government while troops are being withdrawn, while planning to "resurge" after they are gone at the end of 2014.
The ANF spokesman, Faizullah Zaki, told reporters Dostum's earlier comments were overblown. "The general doesn't have any objection to peace and he is on the side of the peace process." (AP)