Senior negotiators from the US and the Taliban are set to convene their seven round of talks on the conflict in Afghanistan within the next two days in Doha as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani praises Pakistan’s efforts aimed at advancing the stalled peace process and persuading the militant Taliban to endorse intra-Afghan talks, something the group so far has rejected despite international pressures.
The Afghan government has also expressed optimism that the next meeting between the US and the Taliban will help to kick off intra-Afghan talks and a potential ceasefire.
“I am hopeful that this time there are some breakthroughs so that the way is opened for intra-Afghan talks which are the key issue,” said Haji Din Mohammad, deputy head of the High Peace Council.
“We hope that these talks lead to the start of intra-Afghan talks so that peace and stability can prevail in Afghanistan through political dialogue,” said Omid Maisam, deputy spokesman to Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
Sources familiar with the talks said the Taliban has never supported an irresponsible exit of the foreign forces from Afghanistan and that there are hopes that the two sides reach some type of agreement on a responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from the country in their upcoming discussion.
“The important issue is that if the Americans exit, this exit will be a responsible withdrawal. A possible agreement between the Taliban and them (American side) will also determine a timeframe for this exist,” said Mawlavi Qalamuddin, a former Taliban commander who served as head of the regime’s religious police chief when the group was in power.
This comes two days after The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a surprise trip to Kabul said that he hopes that Afghanistan will achieve a peace deal ahead of the Presidential Elections – scheduled for September 28.
He said that the United States is ready to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan but added that the US has not provided the Taliban with the timeline.
Pompeo said that the US is expecting practical measures by Pakistan on Afghan peace.
The NATO Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan Nicholas Kay said that the next round of the US and Taliban talks are “very sensitive” and that the alliance remains committed to continue providing support to Afghanistan so that the country does not again become a safe haven for international terrorists.
“We are continuing with our mission. I expect our Defence Ministers to send a strong signal of continued commitment,” Kay said in an interview with TOLOnews.
As well as on Wednesday, The NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg at a press briefing in Brussels said that “a real peace process” is taking place in Afghanistan and that the international community is closer to a peace deal in Afghanistan.
“We are close to peace deal now than we ever been before in Afghanistan,” Stoltenberg said. “All NATO allies strongly support the peace efforts and the best way to do that is to continue to stay committed to Afghanistan to continue to provide political support but continue to support the Afghan army and security forces with train and funding.”
NATO defense ministers will hold a two-day meeting on the alliance’s defense spending as well as Afghanistan among other issues.
“First I think we should all welcome the fact that there are talks. Because after years without a real peace process we have seen over the last months that there is a real process taking place. And there are talks between the Taliban and the United States,” he said.