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Editorial: Reactions over shake-up of Taliban negotiators

The impasse hampering the intra-Afghan talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government has seemingly been broken with the completion of the prisoner swap process between the sides but some minor technical issues still exist on the way to the historic development in terms of bringing peace to the country. Different opinions have emerged on a recent shake-up in the Taliban negotiating team. The move by the Taliban could be seen both from positive and negative perspectives. As the Taliban made changes to its negotiating team’s head and members, just days before the start of intra-Afghan talks, some in the government say the move has given rise to deep differences within the insurgent group. However, experts hail the new Taliban chief negotiator, Shaikh Abdul Hakim, a peace-loving personality, believing that his appointment would be productive in terms of flexibility that would be shown by the group. Others are of the opinion that Qatar had reservations over Abbas Stanikzai, former head of the group’s negotiating team, because his family lived in Dubai and not Doha, citing this as a reason for his demotion to being deputy chief of the negotiating team. The motive behind the restructuring of the negotiators isn’t clearly known but it shouldn’t be a big deal because bringing changes could be seen as the group’s seriousness in this regard. Nevertheless, the changes came after the group’s delegation visit to Pakistan, something that could be construed as negative. However, as long as the group doesn’t play into the hands of such pressures and influences by foreign countries, reshuffling within the team won’t do any harm to the peace process. Whatever the case is, the group is apparently working in unison and its differences aren’t publicized. It’s said that thirteen members of the Taliban’s negotiating team are members of the leadership council of the group, meaning there won’t be any need to constantly consult the leaders as they would possess full authority to continue in the talks with the government – something that could also save time, unlike the US-Taliban talks. Therefore, the government also needs to have a strong team and consensus to resolve the petty issues over the High Council for National Reconciliation and take the talks ahead with a determined mandate. Currently, it seems the government is lagging behind because the Taliban’s team is already in Qatar but the government’s delegation’s departure is being delayed over one pretext or another. The Taliban have also recently announced that the prisoner release process isn’t completed and that they are awaiting their release to start the intra-Afghan talks. The most prominent problem seems to be that of the remaining seven controversial prisoners whose release had raised objections from foreign countries. With that solved, nothing should be allowed to prolong the launch of talks any further that are expected to be held this week.

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