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U.S. point man in Doha as talks loom, Taliban reshape negotiating team

AT News

KABUL: Taliban are restructuring their negotiating team with new faces in the leadership ranks as crucial intra-Afghan peace negotiations are in the offing after a hectic prisoner exchange ended last week.

U.S. Department of State has said special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad headed off to Doha on Friday to lead Washington’s efforts to jumpstart intra-Afghan peace talks. The U.S. State Department urged warring parties in Afghanistan to use the opportunity to end the war.

Trip by Khalilzad to Qatar coincides with a change in the leadership of Taliban’s negotiating team. Zabihullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesman, tweeted on Friday that the team’s formation has been reshaped with Taliban’s chief justice Mawlawi Abdul Hakim assigned to lead the team and Shir Ahmad Stanikzai now deputizing for him in the impending talks.

Taliban’s peace team has 21 members, as many as Kabul government’s negotiating team.

Peace talks in Doha had been speculated to be held this week. “Technical problems” is what the Taliban came up with for the delay in negotiations. Kabul government, however, blames the postponement on Taliban representatives for not being present in Qatar.

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