New Afghan peace talks ex­pected in Oman but Tal­iban par­tic­i­pa­tion un­clear


KABUL: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Afghanistan, China, Pak­istan and the US will meet in Oman next week to dis­cuss re­viv­ing peace talks with Afghan Tal­iban mil­i­tants, an Afghan of­fi­cial and a Pak­istani For­eign Min­istry source said on Wednesday.

But it was not clear if Afghan Tal­iban rep­re­sen­ta­tives would join the talks. Tal­iban sources said they had not yet re­ceived an in­vi­ta­tion and plan to skip Mon­day’s dis­cus­sions in Mus­cat, cast­ing doubt on ef­forts to re­vive long-stalled ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The four-na­tion Quadri­lat­eral Co­or­di­na­tion Group (QGC), com­pris­ing Afghanistan, China, Pak­istan and the US, has been try­ing to ease the path to di­rect talks be­tween the Afghan gov­ern­ment and the Tal­iban, with lit­tle suc­cess.

The Tal­iban, ousted in a US-led mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in 2001, has been gain­ing ter­ri­tory in re­cent years through a vi­o­lent in­sur­gency to try to top­ple Afghanistan’s West­ern-backed gov­ern­ment and re-es­tab­lish a fun­da­men­tal­ist regime.

Amin Waqad, a close aide to Agfhan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani and a se­nior mem­ber of the High Peace Coun­cil (HPC), said, “HPC and gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives will par­tic­i­pate, and it is an im­por­tant one be­cause the Tal­iban rep­re­sen­ta­tives will be there. We will go with a clear plan.”

A se­nior Pak­istani For­eign Min­istry of­fi­cial con­firmed the talks would take place on Oct 16. Last week, For­eign Min­is­ter Khawaja Asif told Voice of Amer­ica the “quadri­lat­eral ar­range­ment will again be in op­er­a­tion” in Mus­cat in Oc­to­ber.

The US Em­bassy in Islamabad did not com­ment for the re­port.

Talks and ef­forts to kick start ne­go­ti­a­tions have failed fol­low­ing the 2015 an­nounce­ment of the death of the Tal­iban’s founder and long-time leader, Mul­lah Mo­hammed Omar, in 2013.

The US wants Pak­istan, which it ac­cuses of har­bor­ing Afghan Tal­iban com­man­ders, to ex­ert more in­flu­ence on the group to bring them to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

Pak­istani of­fi­cials deny shel­ter­ing Tal­iban mil­i­tants and say their in­flu­ence on the group has waned.

Two se­nior Afghan Tal­iban lead­ers, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity, told Reuters the group’s lead­er­ship coun­cil met on Tues­day and de­cided it would not send a del­e­ga­tion to Mus­cat even if the group was in­vited to par­tic­i­pate.

“Till that time, we were not in­vited, but even if we re­ceived any in­vi­ta­tion, our se­nior mem­bers de­cided not to par­tic­i­pate in the meet­ing,” said one of the Tal­iban lead­ers.

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