Afghan leaders meet Taliban negotiators in Qatar as fighting rages

Former president Hamid Karzai and former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah are part of the delegation. Source: Twitter.

DOHA: Representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban met in Doha for high-stakes negotiations today (Saturday), as violence rages in the country with foreign forces almost entirely withdrawn.

Several high-ranking officials, including former president Hamid Karzai and former chief executive Abdullah Abdullah, gathered in a luxury hotel after morning prayers. They were joined by negotiators from the Taliban’s political office in Doha.

“The high level delegation is here to talk to both sides, guide them and support the government negotiating team in terms of speeding up the talks and have progress,” said Najia Anwari, the spokeswoman for the Afghan government.

Talking to an international news agency, she said, “We expect that it will speed the talks and in a short time, both sides will reach a result and we will witness a durable and dignified peace in Afghanistan.”

For his part, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the group has repeatedly confirmed its readiness for dialogue and negotiations, adding that the problems can only be solved by dialogue.

“However, the Afghan government needs to also show the same commitment,” Naeem said, adding, “They need to show the right and sincere determination when it comes to negotiations in order to end these problems.”

The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital, but the talks have lost momentum as the Taliban have made battlefield gains.

On Friday, Afghan forces clashed Friday with Taliban fighters in Spin Boldak after launching an operation to retake the key southern border crossing with Pakistan. The Taliban have also tightened their grip in the north, and battled for the stronghold of an infamous warlord.

The battle at the southern border follows weeks of intensifying fighting across Afghanistan, with the Taliban pressing multiple offensives and overrunning dozens of districts at a staggering rate.

As fighting raged over large swathes of Afghanistan, a war of words was also heating up between Kabul and Islamabad, after the Afghan vice president accused the Pakistani military of providing “close air support to Taliban in certain areas”.

Pakistan strongly denied the claim, with a foreign ministry statement saying the country took necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population.