KABUL, Afghanistan — President Hamid Karzai on Saturday offered to meet with the Taliban leader and give militants a government position only hours after a suicide bomber in army disguise attacked a military bus, killing 30 people — nearly all of them Afghan soldiers.
Strengthening a call for negotiations he has made with increasing frequency in recent weeks, Karzai said he was willing to meet with the reclusive leader Mullah Omar and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister and factional warlord leader.
|An Afghan soldier stands by a destroyed bus after a suicide blast in Kabul on Saturday.|
“If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me. I’ll personally go there and get in touch with them,” Karzai said.
“Esteemed Mullah, sir, and esteemed Hekmatyar, sir, why are you destroying the country?”
Karzai said he has contacts with Taliban militants through tribal elders but that there are no direct and open government communication channels with the fighters. Omar’s whereabouts are not known, although Karzai has claimed he is in Quetta, Pakistan, a militant hotbed across the border from Afghanistan’s Kandahar province.
“If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, ‘President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don’t want to fight anymore,’ ... If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan,” Karzai said.