To reach a peace deal, Taliban say Afghan president must go

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FILE - In this March 19, 2021 file photo, Suhail Shaheen, Afghan Taliban spokesman and a member of the negotiation team gestures while speaking during a joint news conference in Moscow, Russia. In an interview with The Associated Press Thursday, July 22, 2021, Shaheen said the insurgent movement does not want to monopolize power, but there won't be peace until there is a new, negotiated government in Kabul and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is removed. Shaheen said women will be allowed to work, go to school, and participate in politics but will have to wear the hijab, or headscarf. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File)The Taliban say they don’t want to monopolize power, but they insist there won’t be peace in Afghanistan until there is a new negotiated government in Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani is removed. In an interview with The Associated Press, Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group’s negotiating team, laid out the insurgents’ stance on what should come next in a country on the precipice.

The Taliban have swiftly captured territory in recent weeks, seized strategic border crossings and are threatening a number of provincial capitals, as the last U.S. and NATO soldiers leave Afghanistan. This week, the top U.S. military officer, Gen. Mark Milley, told a Pentagon press conference that the Taliban have “strategic momentum,” and he did not rule out a complete Taliban takeover. But he said it is not inevitable. “I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said.

Memories of the Taliban’s last time in power some 20 years ago, when they enforced a harsh brand of Islam that denied girls an education and barred women from work, have stoked fears of their return among many.

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