Bangkok Post

Afghan govt picks Taliban talks team

Peace hopes rise as 21 selections made


KABUL: Afghanista­n’s government late on Thursday announced a 21-member team to negotiate with the Taliban in a tentative sign of progress for the United States-brokered peace deal.

The list announced by the country’s State Ministry of Peace would be led by Masoom Stanekzai, a former National Directorat­e of Security chief, and included politician­s, former officials and representa­tives of civil society. Five members of the team are women.

It was not immediatel­y clear whether President Ashraf Ghani’s political rival Abdullah Abdullah would endorse the team selected, which diplomats have said would be vital given his camp’s strong influence in much of the country’s North and West.

Following the selection of the government’s negotiator­s, the next step should be to convene talks with the Taliban as part of a process aimed at ending America’s longest war and bringing peace to Afghanista­n.

The United States signed a troop withdrawal deal with the Taliban in

February, but progress on moving to negotiatio­ns between the militant group and the Afghan government has been delayed, in part by the political feud between Mr Ghani and Mr Abdullah with both men claiming to be Afghanista­n’s rightful leader following September’s election.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to mediate between the two men to create an “inclusive” government during a day-long visit to Kabul on Monday, and announced a $1 billion (33 billion baht) cut in US aid to Afghanista­n, which he said could be reversed.

The government announced this week it would begin releasing Taliban prisoners at the end of March, edging closer to removing an obstacle to talks. The Taliban had demanded the unconditio­nal release of 5,000 prisoners before starting talks with the government. Mr Ghani countered with an offer to free 1,500 prisoners and has since said he would release 100 at the end of March.

The arrangemen­t was struck in talks between Taliban and government officials held over Skype because of travel restrictio­ns due to the global coronaviru­s pandemic.

 ??  ?? Abdullah: Yet to endorse plan
Abdullah: Yet to endorse plan
 ??  ?? Ghani: Announces release of prisoners
Ghani: Announces release of prisoners

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