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High-stakes Afghan talks resume after long impasse

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KABUL: Afghan government and the Taliban met for peace negotiations in Qatar on Saturday, breaking the deadlock that stalled the crucial talks for months since April.

Delegations of Afghanistan government and the Taliban have held several meetings in recent days in Doha after a flurry of pressure from United Nations and the United States to jumpstart the moribund process.

Kabul delegates say the meetings discussed the constitution, ceasefire, a political roadmap, political participation and transition period.

“Serious peace negotiations have begun seriously and meetings will be held every other day on most pressing issues,” said Najia Nouri, a spokeswoman for the State Ministry for Peace.

Kabul-Taliban talk began in September last year and stalled several times since then with both sides locking horns on contentious issues.

Negotiations are resuming as fighting in Afghanistan is escalating at an unprecedented speed, with the Taliban having taken control of at least 100 districts. The degree of Taliban advances have been so staggering that prompted a scathing rebuke from Zalmai Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan.

Khalilzad, who is facilitating Afghanistan’s peace process with the Taliban, recently told the BBC: “Sometimes tensions escalate with progress of a political process, because warring parties want to have a stronger position in the negotiation. I am not surprised by the escalation of the conflict, but by the progress of the Taliban. I hope that Afghan forces, with the help of their friends, will repel the Taliban, but I emphasize that there is no military solution, and a political solution is needed.”

After US and its NATO allies began packing up their gears and leaving Afghanistan on early May, Taliban have advanced rapidly with a focus on district centres and have captured more than tens of districts across the country.

In response to a question of whether the US will intervene if the Taliban decide to capture Kabul, Khalilzad said the militants had pledged not to attack provincial capitals.

“The Taliban know they need to be accepted as part of Afghanistan’s future, not hated. The quest for a military victory and an attack on Kabul and the imposition of government will jeopardize the international legitimacy they want,” he said.

‘We will not recognize a government imposed by force in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad reiterated.

On the other hand, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke with his Pakistani and Qatari counterparts about peace in Afghanistan and stressed the importance of their continued cooperation in achieving peace in the country.

 “One of the reasons we met this fate today, I think, was the unconditional withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan,” said Mir Haidar Afzali, chairman of the House’s Defense Committee.

Nematullah Karyab, another member of the Parliament, opines that peace will not be achieved without reaching an understanding with Pakistan first.

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