Khalilzad regularly briefed Ghani on US-Taliban talks: Daudzai

KABUL (TOLO news): The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad had regularly briefed President Ashraf Ghani by phone calls on a daily basis during the talks with Taliban in Qatar, a senior official of the High Peace Council acknowledged at a press conference on Sunday.

“Mr. Khalilzad contacted the President of Afghanistan every day to brief him about the Qatar talks,” President Ghani’s Special Envoy and Head of the High Peace Council’s Secretariat Umer Daudzai said. “What they discussed is classified but the government of Afghanistan was aware of the process.”

Daudzai’s comments are expressed at a time that politicians, critics and civil society activists have often criticized the United States for not sharing the details of the US-Taliban talks in Qatar, the fifth round of which continued for 16 days – but behind the closed doors.

In the fifth round of the talks, the two sides agreed in draft on US forces withdrawal and counterterrorism assurances.

Daudzai, meanwhile, said that the upcoming consultative Jirga – which is an assembly of delegates from different layers of the society – is not the one which has been mentioned in the Afghan Constitution. “It is a consultative Jirga,” he added.

The Jirga was supposed to be convened in March but the High Peace Council announced April 29 as a new date for the event where almost 2,000 delegates, 30 percent of them women, will attend to discuss the red lines and the pathway for peace.

“We have planned that the upcoming Jirga will be convened for four days and it will be divided into 50 working groups,” Daudzai explained.

When asked about the Taliban’s participation in the Jirga, Daudzai said the group can also attend the Jirga.

“No area will be deprived of sending their delegates to the Jirga.” Daudzai stressed. “We will welcome it if anyone attends the Jirga as representative of the Taliban. We are discussing on whether the Taliban should also be invited or not.”

Another debated issue among critics and politicians is the next Qatar meeting between Afghan political parties and the Taliban – same as the Moscow meeting which was held in February.

The Afghan government has not decided on its presence in the meeting, Daudzai said.

“The upcoming Qatar meeting is hosted by an academic institution, and so far we have not decided to attend the event. In my view, the meeting should be held after the peace Jirga,” Daudzai suggested.

Meanwhile, Daudzai welcomed Khalilzad’s meetings with representatives of the EU, China and Russia for consultations on the Afghan peace, and called a good step.

“Some countries had some questions regarding Doha talks that what has happened there. It was a good step that the US invited representatives of those countries and shared the information with them,” Daudzai said.

According to the US Department of State, Khalilzad held two-day talks with representatives of EU, China, and Russia for consultations on the Afghan peace process in Washington DC on March 21-22.

Khalilzad and EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Roland Kobia they agreed that bringing an end to Afghanistan’s war and achieving peace must be the key objective, and that violence should cease, the US Department of State said in a statement.