The Presidential Palace has confirmed that the Afghan government has expedited its efforts to form a national, inclusive, and unified negotiating team as the United States and the Taliban delegations are preparing to hold the next round of peace talks in Doha later this month.
President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman Haroon Chakhansuri at a press conference on Monday said it is early to say that when the team will be finalized.
However, a source from the Presidential Palace said the Afghan government is focusing on the effectiveness of the team rather than its rapid creation.
This comes a day after US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said the integration of a strong and unified negotiating team under Afghan government’s umbrella is needed for achieving a breakthrough in the strides for peace in Afghanistan. But the optimist Khalilzad said that the Afghan government is running out of time for the creation of such a team.
Khalilzad told TOLOnews on Monday that he will meet senior Taliban members in Doha on February 25.
Abdul Hakim Munib, a member of government’s negotiating team, which was formed last year in November, said the team “represents all ethnicities, languages, and parties” and that the team was formed after many consolations.
The incumbent 11-member negotiating team of the Afghan government includes Salam Rahimi, President Ghani’s Chief of Staff; Education Minister Mirwais Balkhi; Hasina Safi, Minister of Information and Culture; Dr Alema, Deputy Minister of Refugees and Repatriation; Abdul Tawab Balakarzai, Deputy Minister of Higher Education; Gen. Ebadullah Ebad a senior official of the NDS; Abdullah Attai, member of the Supreme Court; MP Shahgul Rezaee; Ulema Council member Attaullah Ludin; Paktia Governor Shamin Katawzi, and Tooryalai Ghiasi, Head of Cultural Affairs at Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since last September, Khalilzad has met with all sides involved in the Afghan conflict in an attempt to end America’s longest war in which the US has lost over 2,400 soldiers.
Preserving the past years’ achievements, particularly in human rights, in the peace process has been the main issue raised by critics and human rights activists.
“The Afghan government should create a team in which forces from the outside government are also involved in it so that we can sit with the Taliban for peace talks from a united front,” said Sima Samar, Chairperson of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.
Other critics said the peace negotiating team needs to be inclusive and that it should involve those politicians who attended the Moscow talks – earlier this month.
“Numerous politicians gathered in Moscow talks. The expectation is that such people are included in the structure of the team,” said Nazar Mohammad Mutmaen, a political affairs analyst.
“The Afghan government needs to establish a national and inclusive team ahead of the Doha talks,” said Bilal Ahmad Niazi, an analyst.
This comes a week after President Ashraf Ghani called for a grand consultative Jirga, a traditional assembly, on the peace process in the country. Ghani said the Jirga will be convened within a month.