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American and Taliban officials resumed talks in Qatar to end a 17-year war in Afghanistan on Wednesday while the Afghan government hosted a rare assembly in Kabul to ensure its interests are upheld in any peace deal.
Axar.az reports citing Reuters that, afghan representatives were not allowed to attend the sixth round of U.S.-Taliban talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, said Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the insurgent group.
“There will be no other side except the U.S. and Taliban representatives in the meeting, but some Qatari officials will remain present as hosts,” he told Reuters.
The talks are part of President Donald Trump’s efforts to end America’s longest war, which began when U.S.-backed forces ousted the Taliban weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Since October, U.S. and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks aimed at ensuring a safe exit for U.S. forces in return for a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by militants to threaten the rest of the world.
In this round, U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and his delegation are expected to focus on a declaration of a ceasefire as a first step to end the fighting, said a western diplomat in Kabul.
An official working closely with Khalilzad said he is expected to encourage the insurgent group to engage in Afghan-to-Afghan talks to find a political settlement to end the war.
This week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani convened a rare grand assembly known as the Loya Jirga to set out Kabul’s conditions for peace talks with the Taliban.
The Jirga has a purely consultative function, but it carries significance in Afghan politics and society.
The Taliban has so far refused to talk to Kabul and have labeled the Afghan government as a “U.S. puppet.”
Ghani believes that backing from members of the Loya Jirga will strengthen his bid to be recognized as Afghanistan’s legitimate representative in the peace talks.
The assembly includes 3,200 tribal elders, politicians and community and religious leaders from all 34 provinces.
But opposition politicians and government critics, including former president Hamid Karzai, are boycotting the meeting. They accuse Ghani of using it as a platform to boost his status as a leader in an election year.
Omar Daudzai, Ghani’s special envoy for peace, said at the assembly he welcomed the U.S.-Taliban talks in Qatar but Afghan voices should be heard at the negotiating table.
“The Loya Jirga is the rational and logical start of the peace talks,” he told reporters, adding that the assembly would also examine the role of foreign powers in Afghanistan.
The United States has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO-led mission, known as Resolute Support, that is training and assisting the Afghan government’s security forces in their battle against Taliban fighters and extremist groups such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda.
2019.05.01 / 15:21