Four members of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Saadat Mansoor Naderi, Fawzia Koofi, Matin Beg and Kalimullah Naqibi, have returned to the country over personal matters, sources told TOLOnews.
The negotiations in Doha have faced delays over two disputed points for the ground rules for the talks: the religious basis for the talks and the authority of the US-Taliban deal as the "mother deal" underlying the current negotiations.
The sources said the two sides have agreed to allow Qatar to play a role as mediator to break the impasse over the disputed points.
The two sides have held over 10 meetings at the contact groups level over the last 40 days, but have not reached an agreement on the disputed points to begin the direct talks, which have been called a historic opportunity for Afghanistan to end the decades of war and bloodshed.
The return of the four delegates has created doubts among analysts about the future of the negotiations, who say the talks have stalled over the disagreement on the procedural rules and who say Pakistan’s efforts to end the rift has not yet yielded a result.
“It was expected that the talks would be prolonged and would be complicated. It has happened now,” said Tahir Khan, an analyst based in Islamabad.
Meanwhile, US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is in Norway to discuss the Afghan peace talks, the Norwegian FM Eriksen Soreide said, adding “Norway supports the ongoing diplomatic efforts to achieve lasting & inclusive peace in Afghanistan.”
Soreide said it is crucial for the process that parties end violence and ensure the participation of women.
The last two weeks have been the deadliest for Afghan forces and civilians since the US-Taliban deal in February in Doha. At least 20 Afghan soldiers were killed in a Taliban attack in Nimroz this week. Another Taliban attack in the province near Kamal Khan Dam killed six policemen guarding the dam, according to officials. The Taliban claimed the attack on the base but did not comment on the second incident.
The group also ambushed a special unit of Afghan forces in Takhar province, killing over 50 of them. The Taliban also attacked the outskirts of Helmand capital, Lashkar Gah city two weeks ago. The fighting is still ongoing. The government sent a new batch of special forces to the province on Sunday, according to the Defense Ministry.
Figures by the Ministry of Interior Affairs show that the Taliban conducted 356 attacks over the last week. Two suicide attacks and 52 explosions were included in this number.
The data also indicates that 51 civilians were killed and 137 more were wounded in Taliban attacks over the last week.
The ministry says that the Afghan forces responded to Taliban offensives in the last week and that 403 Taliban fighters were killed and 140 more were wounded. The Taliban has not commented on the data provided by the ministry.