A number of tribal elders from southern provinces on Tuesday announced the formation of a council that aims to bring all tribes and ethnic groups in the country together under one umbrella.
At a gathering in southern Kandahar province, members of the new council – the Loy Kandahar Council - said a peace deal with the Taliban is critical for war-torn Afghanistan. In line with this, they called on the National Unity Government (NUG) to hand over the responsibility of peace talks to the council.
In addition, members of the council condemned the recent siege of Kunduz city, and said government must identify and name those responsible for its collapse.
They also warned that other provinces could face the same fate as Kunduz if proper measures are not taken to maintain security countrywide.
"We want peace and we want reconciliation between the government and the Taliban," said Abdul Salam Rocketi, a former senior leader of the Taliban and member of the new council.
"The Loy Kandahar Council aims to strengthen unity among elders and people from southern, central and other parts of the country," he added.
"We urge the government to hand over the responsibility of the peace talks to the Loy Kandahar Council. We will definitely ensure peace between the government and the Taliban," he said.
On the fall of Kunduz city, the elders said they sympathized with the residents who they claimed had endured a lot over the past week.
"We can feel the pain of Kunduz residents as Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul have seen war for several years," said Ayub, a tribal elder.
"The fall of Kunduz made us realize that someday Uruzgan, Kandahar or Helmand could fall to militants...and this is a warning to the government," he added.
Meanwhile, Mullah Sher Mohammad Akhond, a senator, questioned government's management regarding the collapse of Kunduz city.
"How is it possible that 300 or 400 people can enter a city without being noticed? This is a question for us," he said.
"The government should recognize and make public the names of those who were involved ... [in the fall of Kunduz city]," he urged.
The elders also requested that government consult with elders and politicians in a bid to overcome current hurdles and maintain law and order countrywide.