Afghan president says Taliban has 'last chance' to give up and join peace process

Afghanistan police fire into air above anti-government protesters in KabulReuters

The Afghan government says it's ready to host the so-called Kabul Process in which peace and security issues will be discussed among Afghans and officials from the region and around the world.

Shakib Mustaghni, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, says the Afghan government will host the first meeting of the process on Tuesday in Kabul.

Ambassadors from participating countries and international organizations have assured the Afghan government of the participation of high-level delegations, said Mustaghni.

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Mustaghni added the country's security institutions have assured the government the meeting will be safe in the wake of recent bomb attacks in the capital.

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and the country's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah will address the participants.

Afghanistan's president has again invited the Taliban to peace talks, calling it their "last chance" to give up their 16-year insurgency and join the political process.

Ashraf Ghani spoke at the opening of the so-called Kabul Process, a gathering of 23 nations, the EU, U.N. and NATO intended to discuss security and political issues in the country.

The Taliban has steadily expanded its reach since U.S. and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014 and transitioned to a support and counterterrorism role.

Past attempts at peace talks have failed. The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the government until all foreign forces leave, and still refer to themselves as a government in exile, angering authorities in Kabul.

31 May 2017: An Afghan man reacts at the site of a huge truck blast in KabulOmar Sobhani/Reuters
31 May 2017: Men carry an injured man to a hospital after a blast in Kabul, AfghanistanMohammad Ismail/Reuters
31 May 2017: Afghan security forces and residents stand near the crater left by a truck bomb attack in Kabul that killed at least 80 peopleWakil Kohsar/AFP

Kabul suicide bombing

Afghanistan's president said Tuesday that last week's suicide truck bombing in the heart of the capital killed more than 150 people, making it the deadliest single attack in the country since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban.

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The attack added to growing concerns about whether Afghan forces can defeat the Taliban or an increasingly destructive Islamic State affiliate without further aid from U.S. and international forces, which formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, switching to a support and counterterrorism role.

No one immediately claimed the bombing, but Afghanistan has alleged Pakistani involvement, accusations denied by Islamabad.

President Ashraf Ghani spoke at the opening of the so-called Kabul Process, a gathering of 23 nations, the EU, U.N. and NATO to discuss security and political issues in the country. He again invited the Taliban to peace talks, calling it their "last chance" to give up their 16-year insurgency and join the political process.

"If Taliban wants to join peace talks, the Afghan government will allow them to open an office, but this is their last chance," Ghani said.

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The Taliban have steadily expanded their reach over the last two years, seizing control of several districts in different parts of the country. Past attempts at peace talks have failed. The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the government until all foreign forces leave, and still refer to themselves as a government in exile, angering authorities in Kabul.

The U.S.-backed government is also struggling to combat an IS affiliate that has carried out a series of major attacks. Ghani said that over the past two years as many as 11,000 foreign fighters have joined the group.

Ghani also renewed his criticism of neighboring Pakistan, saying it was waging an "undeclared war of aggression" against his country. The two countries have long accused each other of turning a blind eye to militants operating along their porous border, and their forces exchanged fire over a border dispute last month.

Afghan security forces say they are still investigating, but that the explosives used appear to have originated in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz rejected the allegations, which he said were part of a "malicious agenda" to damage relations between the two countries.

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