Aide to Karzai: Taliban can't share power

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan won't offer a share in the government to Taliban insurgents in return for a peace deal, and they'll have to lay down their arms and contest elections to gain power, a top aide to President Hamid Karzai declared in an interview.

National security adviser Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told McClatchy that no changes to the Afghan Constitution will be used to entice the Taliban into a negotiated settlement.

"Power-sharing as a condition for making peace is not acceptable to us. Because we have an elected parliament; we have an elected president. All three powers of the state in Afghanistan (have come about) through democratic processes. The Taliban, if they want to join power or win power, they have to take part in the democratic processes," Spanta said.

Spanta also said that Afghans must be able to take over all counter-terrorism operations by the end of 2014, but he noted that peace in the country was possible only if neighboring Pakistan wanted it.

The statement by Karzai's national security adviser quashed speculation that as part of a peace accord, the extremist movement would be given ministries and provincial governorships and the Afghan Constitution would be modified to allow the dominance of religious law. Late last year, Karzai formed a High Peace Council, made up of parliamentarians, officials and former warlords, to pursue a "reconciliation" deal with the Taliban.

While the U.S. strategy is to fight the Taliban, U.S. civilian and military officials have said consistently that the war can only end through a political settlement. However, the U.S. is wary of the Taliban's links with al-Qaida.

Spanta said the government would offer amnesty to the Taliban but little more.

"Categorically I can tell you, no changes to Afghan Constitution. Everybody who makes peace with us has to accept Afghan Constitution," Spanta said. "We're offering them (Taliban) peace, security, a better future for Afghanistan and themselves."

Spanta, an experienced former foreign minister who's in the hawkish camp in Kabul on talks with the Taliban, said Afghans needed to be fighting at the same time they discussed reconciliation: "In one hand the sword, and the other hand Quran" for peace.