Kabul announces list of 250 Afghans for talks with Taliban

The Kabul delegation to be sent to Qatar will also include women for talks expected to start on April 20.

Undated handout picture of U.S., Taliban and Qatar officials during a meeting for peace talks in Doha
The US cited significant progress after holding direct talks with the Taliban in Doha several times since September [File: Reuters]

The government of Afghanistan has announced a list of 250 people, including around 50 women, who will head to Qatar for talks with the Taliban later this week.

The names were released by officials in Kabul on Tuesday, although the Taliban has refused to talk directly with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani‘s government, saying it would recognise participants only as “ordinary” Afghans.

The meeting – a gathering known as “intra-Afghan” dialogue – is expected to last for two days, starting on Saturday, April 20.

The list includes representatives of political parties, government officials, opposition figures, former fighters, women’s rights activists, war victims’ families, Muslim leaders, youth and media groups, as well as tribal elders and members of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (AHPC), a body that oversees peace efforts but does not represent the government.

It is unclear whether all those on the list will attend.

Afghan women have repeatedly voiced their concerns at having been left out of the peace process.

When they were in power (1996-2001), Taliban officials would not allow women to work, attend a school or leave home without a guardian. Afghan women are concerned that the group could reimpose such restrictions if they are allowed to return as a political entity.

While the Taliban previously met Afghan representatives and politicians in Russia in February, those talks did not include members of Ghani’s government.

The spokesman for former President Hamid Karzai, who was at the Moscow talks, said Karzai supported the upcoming “intra-Afghan” conference in Qatar’s capital, Doha, but he would not be attending.

Taliban refusals

The Taliban has refused to meet directly with the Afghan government, calling them “puppets” of the West. Instead, the group has held a series of talks with US officials led by Zalmay Khalilzad, Washington’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Both the US and the Taliban say they have reached a draft agreement in two areas: the withdrawal of a majority of US forces, and a deal where the Taliban would no longer assist other groups such as al-Qaeda in using Afghanistan for attacks on other nations.

The dates for the next round of talks between the two sides have not been set, according to the US State Department.

Despite the ongoing talks, the Taliban on Friday announced the beginning of its annual spring offensive, calling on Afghan forces to join it and saying it would keep fighting. 

In a series of Twitter posts on Monday, Khalilzad called on the Taliban to discuss a ceasefire.

“Let Afghan people judge whether Talib[an] statements encouraging more violence is way forward,” he wrote.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies