Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, September 27th, 2020

Afghan Peace Talks Team Expected to Leave for Doha in Two Days

Afghan Peace Talks Team Expected to Leave for Doha in Two Days

KABUL - The Afghan government’s peace negotiations team is expected to leave Kabul on Wednesday for Doha, Qatar, for the start of intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban.
Talks are expected to officially start on Sunday, Afghanistan’s national radio and television service RTA reported.
All members of the group that will travel to Doha, including members of the negotiating team and journalists, had COVID-19 tests done on Monday.
This was in line with international health measures to try to curb the spread of the virus.
Journalists were told they would travel with the team, which will be led by Mohammed Masoom Stanekzai.
Stanekzai and his team are expected to negotiate a comprehensive ceasefire in the first round of talks, a source who is part of the negotiations team told Ariana News adding that the first round of talks is expected to last 15 days.
However, Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban leader said Monday that more time was needed to overcome some challenges before talks could begin.
“The Taliban will enter the talks after the release of 400 prisoners, and it is not possible to hold the talks in the limited days; challenges are yet to be removed, and the real representatives of the nation must be included among the delegation, and the Taliban will announce a ceasefire process to build trust,” said Akbar Agha.
Ghulam Farooq Majrooh, a member of the negotiating team meanwhile stated: “The delegation has made all the preparations and we will sit with a specific agenda around the negotiating table with the Taliban; and the other side (the Taliban) should be ready as soon as possible to start the negotiations.”
This latest development comes just a day after the Loya Jirga, or grand council, approved the release of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners so as to kickstart peace talks.
Pledging to implement the Jirga’s decision, President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday he will sign the release order of the inmates.
On Monday morning, a source said Ghani would sign the decree later in the day in order to remove the final obstacle in the way of intra-Afghan negotiations.
This development comes after the February deal between the United States and the Taliban in Doha. This agreement called for the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the withdrawal of US troops.
So far, there has been a drawdown of US troops, five American military bases have been handed over to the Afghan government and Ghani has released over 4,600 Taliban prisoners.
The last group of 400 prisoners had been a sticking point as the group had been deemed hardcore inmates responsible for some of the country’s worst attacks over the past 19 years. (ATN)