Afghan govt. to send delegation to Qatari capital ahead of US-Taliban deal

An Afghan government delegation is going to Qatar to make “initial contacts” with the Taliban days before the signing of an agreement, which could see thousands of US troops withdrawn from Afghanistan.

Afghan National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said on Thursday that the government would send a six-person delegation to Doha to meet the insurgents following a request from “the Taliban and our international partners”.

“It’s a group called (an) initial contact group,” Faisal said, adding that the delegation was “not a negotiating team and won’t be negotiating anything with the Taliban”.

The spokesman also confirmed that representatives of the Kabul government will be conspicuously absent from Saturday’s signing ceremony between the US and Taliban.

“This team isn’t participating (in) the signing ceremony on Saturday.”

In the run-up to the event, the Taliban, the US and Afghan forces agreed to a partial week-long truce that entered its sixth day on Thursday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has recently said the partial truce in Afghanistan between the Taliban, American and Afghan forces was holding.

The situation remains fragile, however, with the interior ministry reporting a policeman’s death due to a roadside bomb explosion in northern Balkh province on Thursday.

Another person was killed and 10 others were wounded in an explosion in Kabul the same day.

The two sides have been in talks over the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees from the militant group.

Washington’s decision to exclude Kabul from the peace talks has also received a firestorm of rebukes from the Afghan government.

In September, the US and the Taliban appeared close to signing a deal that would have seen Washington begin withdrawing thousands of troops in return for security guarantees and potentially end almost two decades of war in Afghanistan.

It was also expected to pave the way for direct talks between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. The Taliban have been saying they do not recognize the Afghan government, which has so far been kept out of previous US-Taliban talks.

Trump ended yearlong talks with the Taliban in September. The negotiations were aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan.

The US president said at the time that the decision to end the talks was his response to a deadly bomb blast by the militants that killed 12 people in Kabul on September 5, including an American soldier.

During a surprise visit to a US military base in Afghanistan in November, Trump claimed that the Taliban wanted to make a deal.

On Tuesday, Trump told reporters in the New Delhi that he was ready to sign a peace deal with the Taliban if a temporary truce held. He said that the US and Taliban were “pretty close” to signing the deal.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and overthrew a Taliban regime in power at the time. But US forces have remained bogged down there through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Trump.


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