October 5, 2016 - 16:39 AMT
Kerry urges Taliban to strike "honorable" peace deal with Kabul

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has urged the Taliban to follow the recent example of an Afghan warlord and strike its own peace deal with the Kabul government, FRE/RL reports.

Speaking in Brussels at an international donors conference for Afghanistan on October 5, Kerry said that "there is a path toward an honorable end to the conflict that the Taliban have waged -- it is a conflict that cannot be won on the battlefield."

He said that a peace deal signed last week by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who heads the Hezb-e Islami group and was a key figure in Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s, was a "model for what might be possible."

Kerry added that a peace deal is the only way for the Taliban to end the fighting, ensure lasting stability, and "achieve a full drawdown of international military forces, which is their goal."

"Let me repeat it," he said. "The [Taliban's] goal of ridding Afghanistan of external forces will not occur by the demand or by the continued insurgency. It will come through peace."

Last week's agreement requires Hekmatyar to cease violence, cut all ties with international militant groups, and accept the Afghan Constitution, including its guarantee of rights for women and minorities, RFE/RL says.

"In return for keeping these commitments, Hekmatyar's group will be able to emerge from the shadows to rejoin Afghan society," Kerry said.

The agreement grants Hekmatyar amnesty for past offences and the release of certain Hezb-e Islami prisoners. The Kabul government also agreed to press for the lifting of international sanctions on Hekmatyar.

However, the two sides agreed to disagree over Hezb-e Islami 's continuing demand that all foreign soldiers immediately leave the country.

There has been no immediate reaction from the Taliban to Kerry's remarks. The Taliban penetrated the center of the northern city of Kunduz on October 3, and is testing the defenses of two other provincial capitals in the south of the country.