As Taliban members are about to start talks with US negotiators in Qatar for the fifth time in less than four months, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who is part of the National Unity Government with President Ashraf Ghani, said Taliban has not shown willingness for direct talks with the Afghan government, adding that it is a key hurdle to the peace process.
"We are committed to negotiations, but I still regard lack of Taliban's sincerity in negotiations as main obstacle to peace in Afghanistan," Abdullah said at the Council of Ministers meeting. "It is essential that we engage in wide-ranging consultations before making decisions on national issues such as the Consultative Jirga."
The remarks come as US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad last week called on the Afghan government to form an inclusive and national negotiating team in order to move forward the peace process. The Afghan government has already has formed a team, but Khalilzad says new figures show be included in the team to make it inclusive and national.
Meanwhile, Abdullah pointed out to the consultative Jirga, a grand assembly, on peace which will be held on March 17, and said people will welcome any initiative which is aimed at moving the country closer to a sustainable peace.
"Any steps deemed to take us further towards peace is welcome, but we must consult on the schedule, objectives, procedures and our expectations from Consultative Jirga," he added.
ccording to the High Peace Council, the Jirga will have almost 2,000 delegates and it is more likely that the US in coordination with the Afghan government will ask Taliban in Qatar talks to send a delegation to the consultative meeting.
The chief executive, meanwhile, called on Afghan forces to reduce harm to civilians in their operations by applying proper measures. “I would like to have the attention of security and defense officials in this regard,” Abdullah added.
A new UN report on Sunday reveals that more civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict last year than any time since records have been kept. The report documented 3,804 civilian deaths, including 927 children, in 2018.
In total, UNAMA documented 10,993 civilian casualties (3,804 deaths and 7,189) wounded), representing a five percent increase in overall civilian casualties and an 11 percent increase in civilian deaths compared with 2017.