A Taliban spokesman said Monday the religious militia won’t attend a peace conference tentatively planned for later this week in Turkey, putting US efforts to get a peace plan anytime soon in jeopardy. Secretary of State Antony Blinken previously said he wanted to see a peace agreement between Afghanistan’s warring sides finalized at a conference hosted by Turkey and attended by top officials from both the Taliban and the Afghan government. Afghan government, US, and Turkish officials had said they intended to begin the conference Friday. It was to last 10 days. No new date for the Turkey conference was set but time is running out on a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan in keeping with a deal the Trump administration made with the Taliban more than a year ago, the AP reports.
President Biden has said he is committed to ending America's longest war but the US is reportedly looking for a three- to six-month extension. Until now the Taliban have refused, warning of "consequences" if Washington reneges on the deal and the withdrawal timeline. Last month, Blinken gave both the Taliban and the Afghan government an eight-page proposed peace plan to review, which called for protection of the rights of women and minorities and allowed for constitutional reform. In an audio message to the AP, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the Islamic Emirate—the name the Taliban gave their government—was not ready to attend this week’s planned meeting in Turkey. He said the insurgent group was still discussing the US-proffered peace agreement.
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