4 Taliban’s peace delegation members arrive in Doha

KABUL (Pajhwok): A number of other Taliban’s peace delegation members have also arrived in Doha, but the group has not yet commented on the matter. Earlier, sources said some members of the government’s delegation were yet to reach Doha even after the start of the second round of intra-Afghan peace talks, but they hoped the remaining members would arrive there soon.

After three months of talks, the two sides went on a three-week break for consultations with their leadership. However, some members of the government delegation left for Qatar on January 4 and the first round of talks was held the next day. A source in Qatar told Pajhwok Afghan News that a number of members of the Taliban delegation led by Sheikh Abdul Hakim Haqqani had arrived in Doha from Pakistan. He did not disclose the number or names of those arriving in Doha.

According to reports, after the first round of peace talks, some members of the Taliban delegation left Qatar at the official invitation of Pakistan and some of whom remained there. Another source identified the returning Taliban negotiators as Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Sheikh Abdul Hakim, Anas Haqqani and Mullah Fazil. Pajhwok Afghan News contacted Dr. Naeem, a spokesman for Taliban’s political office in Qatar, who said nothing about the arrival of their delegation members in Doha, but told Pajhwok Afghan News: “We were ready and we are still ready for talks.”

Earlier, there were reports that peace talks in Doha had been on hold, but some members of the government delegation in Qatar and Dr. Naeem, called the reports baseless. “Peace talks in Qatar have not been delayed, there are contacts between the two teams,” Naeem wrote on Twitter. According to him, regular meetings took place nowhere, as sometimes need arises for intra-party meetings.

High Council for National Reconciliation spokesman, Faridoon Khwazoon, told Pajhwok Afghan News that peace talks in Qatar had not been delayed and that they were now working on items for the agenda. But another source in Qatar said there had been no meeting between the government and the Taliban since Sunday.

The source said the first meeting had been scheduled for Wednesday, but it did not take place and was rescheduled, but again the meeting did not happen. He cited the incomplete Taliban’s delegation for the delay. The Taliban have not commented in this regard. Earlier, sources said four members of the government delegation were yet to leave for Doha but they could depart in days.

Negotiators from both sides of the peace negotiations held meetings with the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha over the past few days as they try to finalize the agenda of the talks, sources familiar with the process said. The negotiators are expected to expedite efforts to finalize the agenda within the next few days, the sources said.

“Mawlavi Abdul Hakim and a member of the Taliban are in Doha and the talks are moving forward smoothly,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander. “Our expectation is that the parties expect something logical in the view of the prevailing situations and the needs of Afghanistan,” said Fawzia Koofi, a member of Republic’s team. Meanwhile, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh in an interview with the BBC has said that the US has conceded too much to the Taliban.

“American mission, which began 20 years ago, is not yet accomplished,” he said as quoted by the BBC. Saleh warned the US forces withdrawal risks more violence in the country. “I am telling them [US] as a friend and as an ally that trusting the Taliban without putting in a verification mechanism is going to be a fatal mistake,” Saleh said. He added: “The US delegation came to us and swore on every Holy Scripture that if you release these 5,000 Taliban prisoners there will be no violence. We told them at the highest level that our intelligence indicated otherwise, and if we do this violence will spike. Violence has spiked.”

“You want to negotiate with terrorism, it’s your choice. But we are telling you, don’t be deceived,” Saleh said in the BBC interview. Former US National Security Adviser HR McMaster has said that the desire for a quick victory in Afghanistan impelled a very successful initial military campaign that unseated the Taliban government, but America’s short-term mentality undermined efforts to achieve a sustainable political outcome.

“The peace agreement that the Donald Trump administration signed with the Taliban is a flawed, it abandoned a long-term approach in favor of satisfying the desire to disengage from the war,” McMaster said on the US-Taliban peace deal. “As the US continued its withdrawal and an intra-Afghan talks stalled, the Taliban intensified attacks against Afghan security forces and civilians. The situation in South Asia requires a consistent, sustainable long-term strategy based on realities.”