Taliban urge Afghans to boycott polls, reject peace talks

KABUL - The Taliban on Monday directed Afghans to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections and demanded a complete withdrawal of foreign forces as the only solution to end the 17-year-old war as they ramped up attacks in strategic provinces.
The statement from the hardline Islamic militant group coincided with the visit of top US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has been appointed to lead peace efforts with the Taliban.
Khalilzad met President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul to strategise ways to hold Afghan-led peace talks with the Taliban, whose 1996-2001 rule was ended by US-led troops.
"Peace is a holy process, and the US government and people are united with the Afghan government and people in this process," Khalilzad was quoted by Ghani's office in a statement as saying.
Khalilzad, an Afghan-born former US ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq, joined the US State Department team in September.
He is scheduled to visit Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar this week as he seeks to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.