Afghan of­fi­cials, Tal­iban talk of­ten

Doc­u­ments re­veal de­tails of the is­sues that sides dis­cuss.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Kathy Gan­non

De­spite seem­ingly stalled peace talks be­tween Afghanistan’s gov­ern­ment and the Tal­iban, of­fi­cials say the na­tion’s in­tel­li­gence chief speaks by tele­phone with mil­i­tant lead­ers nearly ev­ery day about the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion and po­lit­i­cal future.

In ad­di­tion, Afghanistan’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser has con­ver­sa­tions with the Tal­iban ev­ery other month, of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the ef­forts said.

While Afghan of­fi­cials said nei­ther side was ready to agree to pub­lic peace talks, doc­u­ments de­scrib­ing the con­ver­sa­tions be­tween the Afghan of­fi­cials and the Tal­iban lead­er­ship re­veal de­tails of the is­sues dis­cussed, in­clud­ing the Tal­iban’s ap­par­ent will­ing­ness to ac­cept Afghanistan’s con­sti­tu­tion and future elec­tions.

A se­nior Afghan se­cu­rity of­fi­cial, who had taken notes on the talks, said the Tal­iban wanted cer­tain amend­ments to the con­sti­tu­tion — although not im­me­di­ately.

They also en­vi­sioned an Is­lamic sys­tem of gover­nance in Afghanistan, he said.

Among the Tal­iban’s de­mands, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial:

They ac­cepted ed­u­ca­tion for boys and girls at all lev­els, but wanted seg­re­ga­tion by gen­der.

Women could be em­ployed in all fields, in­clud­ing de­fense and the ju­di­ciary, and they could serve as judges at all lev­els ex­cept the Supreme Court. How­ever, the Tal­iban wanted con­sti­tu­tional guar­an­tees that a wo­man could not be pres­i­dent.

Spe­cial courts should be es­tab­lished to over­see thou­sands of cases that al­lege land was taken il­le­gally by the rich and pow­er­ful in the post-Tal­iban era.

Elec­tions could be held af­ter an in­terim gov­ern­ment is es­tab­lished, with no one af­fil­i­ated with past gov­ern­ments al­lowed to serve in the in­terim ad­min­is­tra­tion. The Tal­iban said all sides could keep ar­eas cur­rently un­der their con­trol un­til vot­ing is held.

Afghanistan’s in­tel­li­gence agency had no com­ment about the con­tacts with the Tal­iban. Of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the con­ver­sa­tions said in­tel­li­gence chief Ma­soum Stanikzai has near daily tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions with Tal­iban leader Ab­bas Stanikzai, who is not re­lated to him. The of­fi­cials spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to talk to re­porters.

Na­tional Se­cu­rity ad­viser Mo­hammed Ha­neef At­mar’s of­fice re­fused re­quests to com­ment on re­ports of his con­tacts with the Tal­iban in Doha, Qatar.

MASSOUD HOSSAINI / AP

Afghan army com­man­dos train Sun­day at the Shorab mil­i­tary camp in Hel­mand prov­ince, Afghanistan. A se­nior Afghan se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said the Tal­iban wanted cer­tain amend­ments to the con­sti­tu­tion — although not im­me­di­ately.

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