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Saturday, January 22, 2022

Afghan delegation heads to Qatar amid stalled peace process


The insurgent group said it wants a “genuine Islamic system” in Afghanistan that would also make provisions for women’s rights, in line with cultural traditions and religious rulings. 

A delegation from the Afghan government will head to Qatar “within days” to hold talks with the Taliban, government sources told Sputnik on Saturday.

The seven-member delegation, led by Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, was initially expected to depart to Qatar on Saturday, but was delayed as there was no agenda for the meetings.

The delegation includes:former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Yunus Qanooni, Akram Khablwak, Karim Khalili, Seyed Mansour Sadat Naderi, and Babur Farahmand.

Government sources also confirmed that Washington’s peace envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will be meeting the delegation in Qatar.

On Friday, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani told a panel at the Antalya Diplomacy Forum that there has been no significant progress at the Afghan peace process.

The Qatari official said Doha is anticipating the delayed Istanbul meeting, which was initially set to take place in April, describing it as a “step forward” to revive the stalled peace process.

An Islamic system

On Sunday, the Taliban said it is committed to the ongoing peace talks and wants a “genuine Islamic system” in Kabul.

“We understand that the world and Afghans have queries and questions about the form of the system to be established following withdrawal of foreign troops,” stated the head of the Taliban’s political office Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Sunday.

Baradar explained that the proposed “Islamic system is the best means for the solution of all issues of the Afghans”, saying it would also protect women, minorities, diplomats and NGO workers.

“Our very participation in the negotiations and its support on our part indicates openly that we believe in resolving issues through [mutual] understanding,” he said.

“We take it on ourselves as a commitment to accommodate all rights of citizens of our country, whether they are male or female, in the light of the rules of the glorious religion of Islam and the noble traditions of the Afghan society,” he said.

The official added that there will be facilities that would provide women to work and get access to education, but did not say whether it would enable women to hold public roles.

During the height of Taliban rule between 1996 and 2001, women were subjected to strict laws. The militant group forced women to fully cover and launched fierce attacks on those who attempted to go to school or join the workforce.

HRW urges UN to ensure women included at Afghan peace meeting

Meanwhile, women have also been calling for more inclusion in the Afghan peace process, noting targeted attacks that rights groups believe aim to “drive women from public life”.

According to the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee, 14 women working for Kabul-based media outlets were either threatened or violently attacked last year, forcing a high number of Afghan women journalists out of their careers.

Women’s rights were one of the key areas of discussion in the peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, however, women were not adequately represented in the talks.

Troop withdrawal

Tensions have soared in Kabul since the Joe Biden administration announced it will fully withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September 11.

Security officials under NATO reportedly approached Qatar to secure a base to train Afghan special forces after the foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan concludes.

“We are holding talks to earmark a base in Qatar to create an exclusive training ground for senior members of the Afghan forces,” said a senior Western security official in Kabul.

The base would be utilised to train and equip Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban, which has waged an insurgency against the Afghan government since 2001.

“We have made an offer but it is for authorities in Qatar to decide if they are comfortable with NATO using their territory as a training ground,” said a second security source based in Washington.

Qatar has yet to comment on the reports.

The US and the Taliban signed a “historic” agreement in February last year during meetings in Qatar. Washington agreed to pull out its remaining troops from Kabul as long as the militant group stops its violence and cooperation with Al-Qaeda.

However, the Biden administration later decided to push the deadline to September 11th given ongoing deadly attacks by the Taliban.

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