US, Taliban Reportedly Begin New Phase Of Talks In Doha

 Women will be included for the first time in the Taliban delegation to talks this month with U.S. officials and Afghan representatives in Qatar over the future of Afghanistan, the movement’s main spokesman said on Monday.

For a group notorious for its strictly conservative attitude to women’s rights, the move represents a step towards addressing demands that women be included in the talks, aimed at bringing an end to more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

“There will be women among Taliban delegation members in the Doha, Qatar meeting,” Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s main spokesman, said by telephone.

He did not name the women, but added, “These women have no family relationship with the senior members of the Taliban, they are normal Afghans, from inside and outside the country, who have been supporters and part of the struggle of the Islamic Emirate.”

The April 19-21 meeting in Doha will be the latest in a series of talks between Taliban and U.S. officials and is also expected to include a 150-strong delegation of Afghan politicians and civil society figures.

The Taliban have maintained their rejection of formal talks with the Afghan government, which they dismiss as a “puppet” regime controlled by the United States.

While Afghanistan remains a deeply conservative country, especially in rural areas, there have been major advances in women’s rights since the U.S-led campaign of 2001 that toppled the Taliban government. Many women fear that if the group regains some power, many of these gains could be erased.

The movement gained worldwide notoriety when it came to power in the 1990s by forcing women to wear full facial covering and imposing severe restrictions including banning girls from school and forbidding women from working outside the home.

US, Taliban Reportedly Begin New Phase Of Talks In Doha


The United States delegation led by Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and senior members of the Taliban reportedly started the new round of peace talks in Doha.

Sources familiar with the talks said the two sides are expected to discuss issues such as the Taliban’s announcement of spring offensive, a reduction of violence and a potential ceasefire.

The US Embassy in Kabul has not confirmed the report.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a chat with reporters hinted at the possible occurrence of the talks on April 15 and said he hopes this round of the negotiations will end with a “logical conclusion”.

“The talks between US and Taliban are ongoing. Many (rounds of) talks have been held. It is expected that the sixth round of talks will kick off on April 15. We hope that the meeting will have good results and we hope that this round of talks reaches a logical conclusion. Its logical conclusion is peace and stability in the region and we will cooperate in this regard,” Qureshi said.

The last round of the US-Taliban talks in Qatar, which continued for 16 days, ended in mid-March in which the two sides agreed in draft on foreign forces withdrawal and counterterrorism assurances.

Sources said that this time the demand from the Taliban will be the reduction of violence and a ceasefire.

The US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has held find rounds of talks with the Taliban on Afghan peace, said on Monday that agreeing on a ceasefire is the “quickest” way to prevent casualties and that he will continue to push the Taliban senior representative to allow their representatives to come to the table of negotiations to discuss this matter.

“The quickest way to prevent casualties is to agree to a ceasefire. Taliban senior leadership should allow their representatives to come to the table and discuss. I will continue to press the case,” Khalilzad said in a tweet on Monday.

Khalilzad said that the reason that the US entered the peace talks was that “more war is not the answer”.

“The US entered peace talks because more war is not the answer. During the talks, I’ve proposed ways to reduce violence. By refusing to work with us to end the killing, the Talibs are prolonging it. Let Afghan people judge whether Talib statements encouraging more violence is way forward,” he added in a tweet.

Khalilzad said the Afghan people deserve and want a comprehensive ceasefire and negotiations leading to lasting peace. “The US stands with them,” he says.

The US envoy said that the United States did not impose the war which he says has gripped Afghanistan for decades and has claimed tens of thousands of “innocent lives”.

“We did not impose this war. Afghanistan has been at war for decades, at times with each other. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have died. Rather than another season of fighting, Afghans are demanding a new way forward,” he added in a tweet.

Khalilzad visited Kabul two times earlier this month in which he held talks with Afghan leaders and politicians as well as civil society members, the Afghan youth and tribal elders where he discussed with them the way forward toward a peaceful Afghanistan.

In their last meeting with the Taliban in Doha in mid-March, the US negotiators and Taliban members agreed in draft on key issues under debate, including counterterrorism efforts and foreign forces withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Afghan politicians and probably a government delegation are all set to attend a meeting with the Taliban in Doha later this week where they will exchange
views on the peace process.

Qatar talks mark the sixth round of negotiations between the US and the Taliban. The meeting will continue for three days.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in a meeting with a delegation of US Congress said that the Taliban has not firm intention to end the war in Afghanistan and that the group “manipulates” the peace process “as a tool”.

Source :

NBC News

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