Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (Photo: IANS)
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday released a list of 20 representatives to negotiate with the Taliban, an important step towards the much-awaited intra-Afghan talks, according to the media report.
On Sunday, the Afghan government and the Taliban held their first discussion on arranging prisoner exchanges, a key step in a broader push for peace, the US special envoy for Afghanistan said on Twitter. “Today, the US and Qatar facilitated the first Afghan government to Taliban technical talks on prisoner releases, via Skype video conferencing,” Zalmay Khalilzad said.
The agreement, signed by Khalilzad and a senior Taliban official on February 29 in Doha, established a framework for bringing to an end America’s longest war, begun after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.
According to the deal, the US is going to reduce its troops to 8,600 in Afghanistan within 135 days, and will, together with its NATO allies, completely pull out the remaining one in the following 14 months if the Taliban stuck to its commitments.
Earlier this month, Ghani had pardoned thousands of Taliban prisoners in a key preliminary step to intra-Afghan talks between a government delegation and the extremist group.
The Doha accord also calls for the gradual withdrawal of American and other foreign troops over a 14-month period — the singular focus of the US diplomatic efforts. The first phase of that withdrawal has already begun.
In exchange, the Taliban committed to continue fighting against terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and promised to negotiate for the first time with Kabul.
Since the Doha agreement was signed, insurgents have carried out dozens of attacks. Insurgents who had infiltrated a police unit in the southern province of Zabul on Friday killed at least 24 police and soldiers, officials reported.
On Wednesday, an unidentified gunmen and suicide bombers stormed a Sikh gurdwara in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul that killed at least 27 worshippers and wounded as many, in one of the deadliest attacks on the minority community in the country.
More than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war last year, the United Nations announced Saturday, as a historic partial truce kicked in across the country. India did not recognise Afghanistan diplomatically when Taliban was ruling the country from 1996 to 2002.