KABUL -- The Taliban on Wednesday (March 24) rejected a proposal by President Ashraf Ghani to hold elections later this year, after months of peace talks between the two warring sides have made little progress.
Ghani is expected to announce the election at a stakeholder conference in Turkey in April, according to two government officials.
"The government will go to Turkey with a plan for an early election that is a fair plan for the future of Afghanistan," a senior official told AFP.
Although the administration has not yet made the details of the proposed plan public, a senior Afghan government official told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Tuesday that a presidential election could be held within six months or a year after a peace deal is signed.
The election would be held under the auspices of the United Nations, the European Union and the United States -- if the Taliban agree on a ceasefire, the official said.
Under the proposal, the current administration would remain in place until the vote is conducted, the official said, but the Taliban could join the government and the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF).
In order to prevent any suspicions of unfair elections, Ghani and his two vice presidents, Amrullah Saleh and Sarwar Danish, are prepared to forgo their candidacy, the official said.
Taliban reject elections
The Taliban immediately rejected the proposal.
"We will never support it," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP.
The United States and other stakeholders have proposed a structure for a future government, including an interim transitional government, and a political roadmap for a lasting ceasefire.
When the term of a transitional government ends, the future leader of Afghanistan will be elected through a popular vote, according to the draft of a US proposal.
Leaders may be chosen only at the ballot box, Ghani has insisted.
"We stand ready to discuss holding free, fair and inclusive elections under the auspices of the international community," he said earlier this month, according to RFE/RL.
Afghanistan will remain "independent", Ghani said Wednesday at the inauguration ceremony of the Kamal Khan Dam in Nimroz province, TOLOnews reported.
Taliban co-founder and deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar told a Moscow conference last week that Afghans "should be left to decide their own fate", without elaborating how.
Efforts to speed up the peace process
At the March 18 Moscow conference, the United States, China, Pakistan and Russia appealed for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan in order to "create a favourable atmosphere for achieving a politico-diplomatic settlement".
The two sides should reach an agreement "as soon as possible" that would "bring an end to over four decades of war in Afghanistan", said the international mediators.
Kabul wants to speed up negotiations, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, said in a show of support for international efforts.
He called for "the two sides to start their talks and discussions in a different atmosphere".
Negotiations have proceeded in Doha, Qatar, since September but have made little tangible progress.
The recent meeting in Moscow and the upcoming peace conference scheduled in Turkey are "complementary to the Afghanistan peace negotiations in Doha and not as a substitute to it", the Afghan Foreign Ministry said March 15.
Some Afghans, however, have questioned Russia's true intentions in the country, particularly after the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeted an incorrect map of Afghanistan that eliminated the Afghan-Chinese border ahead of the Moscow conference.