News ID: 267119
Published: 0755 GMT March 29, 2020

Taliban refuse to talk to Kabul team in blow to US deal

Taliban refuse to talk to Kabul team in blow to US deal
Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (C) leaves after signing an agreement with US officials during a ceremony in the Qatari capital of Doha on February 29, 2020.

The Taliban refused to begin talks with the Afghan government’s new negotiating team on Saturday, in a setback to the so-called US-brokered peace process for one of the world’s longest-running conflicts.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants could not talk to the 21-member team named on Thursday as it had not been constituted taking all parties into account, reported.

It was unclear what side the militant group believed had been excluded from deliberations on the government’s team, Press TV wrote.

The team is headed by Masoom Stanekzai, an ex-security chief and supporter of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and includes politicians, former officials and representatives of civil society. Five members are women.

“In order to reach true and lasting peace, the aforementioned team must be agreed upon by all effective Afghan sides so that it can represent all sides,” said Mujahid.

‎The spokeswoman for the Afghan Ministry of Peace Affairs, Najia Anwari, said the Taliban’s stance was ‎unjustified, as the negotiating team had been appointed after wide consultations among Afghan society.‎

The US and its allies invaded the Asian country to topple a Taliban regime in 2001, accusing it of harboring the Al-Qaeda terrorist group. The militants now control or hold influence over more Afghan territory than at any point since that time and have carried out near-daily attacks against US-led foreign forces and Afghan military outposts throughout the war-ravaged country.

Over 100,000 Afghans have been killed or injured since 2009, when the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting casualties.

The Daesh terrorist group has also emerged in the Asian country more recently.

The Taliban militants had been refusing to recognize the Afghan government until they reached a deal with the US on February 29 under which they agreed, among other things, to sit down for peace talks with the Afghan government.

The Afghan government was a party neither to the negotiations nor to the deal, but it has been acting in accordance with its terms, including by agreeing to free Taliban prisoners. A few days ago, however, the Afghan government announced it had postponed its plan to release Taliban prisoners, demanding the guarantee that they will not return to fighting after being freed.

On Wednesday, however, the Afghan government said it would free 100 Taliban detainees on humanitarian grounds at the end of March.

But the militants have not stopped attacking government targets and civilians in Afghanistan.

Ghani’s political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, has not confirmed whether he will support the delegation, which is potentially important given his camp’s strong influence in the north and west. Abdullah’s spokesman, Fraidoon Khwazoon, said that although the announced list was not final and there were “considerations that needed to be addressed”, it should not be rejected outright. “All sides including the Taliban should try not to lose the available opportunity for peace, by make illogical excuses. The Taliban should not lose the current opportunity.”


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