Afghan government negotiators on Sunday expressed cautious optimism about progress on thorny issues like the ceasefire, before getting to the heart of the matter with the Taliban in historic peace talks in Doha.
At the inaugural ceremony Saturday in the presence of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the Afghan government called for a ceasefire. The Taliban who have been fighting the government and the United States since they were ousted from power in 2001 have not mentioned a truce.
However, the head of the peace process on the government side, Abdullah Abdullah, then told AFP that the Taliban could agree to a ceasefire in exchange for the further release of prisoners.
“This could be one of their requests,” he added before leaving as planned for Kabul on Sunday evening. “There should first be a significant reduction in violence, plus a humanitarian ceasefire and finally a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”
– Code of conduct –
The first meeting “between the contact groups of the negotiating teams took place on Sunday,” the government negotiating team tweeted, adding that the “timetable and code of conduct” for the talks, the duration of which did not last not specified, had been discussed.
Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem confirmed the start of technical discussions.
“We will undoubtedly face many challenges in the talks in the coming days, weeks and months,” admitted Mike Pompeo during his brief visit to Doha on Saturday, after urging the two belligerents to “seize the opportunity” to make peace for future generations.
But 19 years after the international intervention led by the United States in the wake of the deadly attacks of September 11, 2001, which ousted the Taliban from power, the war still kills dozens of people daily.
Hours after the opening session, six police officers were killed overnight in a Taliban attack in Kunduz in the north and five officers were killed in an attack in Kapisa province, near Kabul. The explosion of an artisanal mine in Kabul also injured two civilians.
“Causing more bloodshed (during the talks) is a mistake because neither side can win the war,” Abdullah commented.
– “Too early” –
The Taliban’s chief negotiator, Abdul Ghani Baradar, reminded the opening ceremony of the insurgents’ desire to see Afghanistan governed by an “Islamic system” where the law would be dictated by a rigorous Islam.
The government of President Ashraf Ghani insists on maintaining the young republic and its Constitution, which enshrined many rights, in particular for religious minorities and women, who would be the big losers of a return to the practices in force under the yoke of the Taliban (1996-2001).
Four women are among the 21 government negotiators. No Taliban side.
“The Taliban have put together a fairly diverse team representing both hardliners and moderates, as well as people with strong Islamic credentials,” Overseas researcher Ashley Jackson told AFP. Development Institute.
While some experts have suggested that the two camps could evoke a possible interim or a government coalition integrating all Afghan factions, others tempered, saying it was too early to address the issue.
“Many other subjects (…) must be addressed before going into the details of the government”, underlined on Al Jazeera Sultan Barakat, director of research at the Institute of Doha.
– Retard –
MM. Abdullah and Baradar were received separately by the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who spoke with them about the prospects for peace in Afghanistan, according to official media.
Peace talks had been delayed for six months due to disagreements over the exchange of prisoners.
Some 5,000 insurgents have since been released by Kabul against a thousand members of the Afghan forces as part of an exchange provided for in the US-Taliban agreement signed in February, already in Doha.
This text confirmed the departure of foreign forces from Afghanistan by mid-2021 in exchange for vague Taliban guarantees, including the holding of the Doha inter-Afghan dialogue.
Many Afghans fear the return to power, partial or total, of the Taliban, who control half of the territory and are in a position of strength in these negotiations after the agreement with Washington.
The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, including 2,400 American soldiers, and caused millions to flee. It cost the United States over a trillion dollars.
burs-gw / mdz / hj