After months of controversy, the Afghan government on Wednesday released a list of 20 delegates intended to hold intra-Afghan peace talks with the Taliban.
According to the Afghan government’s list, the negotiating team will be led by Masoom Stanikzai, the former head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), and will include 14 other men and five women expected to have the necessary credentials to engage in peace negotiations with the Taliban.
This new development comes as the Afghan government is under mounting pressure by the US and the Afghan political parties to accelerate efforts to form an inclusive government, settle the feuding between President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, and thus be prepared to negotiate the peace from a solid, unified position.
But who are the members of the peace negotiating team?
Masoom Stanikzai, the former head of the Afghan intelligence agency –the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Nader Nadery, Chairman of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC), Matin Bek, the head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), Habiba Sarabi, the deputy head of the High Peace Council (HPC), Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal, the former Minister of Economy, Khalid Noor, son of former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, Kalimullah Naqibi, the deputy head of Jamiat-e-Islami party, Rasoul Talib, adviser to the president and Enayatullah Baligh, a member of the Ulema Council will represent the Afghan government in the talks with the Taliban.
Other members include Shahla Farid, a university lecturer, Mohammad Natiqi, the former chairman of the Committee of Political Parties and Political Movements, Abdul Hafiz Mansour, a former member of the parliament, Zainab Muahed, member of the youth wing of Jamiat-e-Islami, Batur Dostum, the son of former first vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum and Dr. Amin Ahmadi, a university lecturer, are all those close to Abdullah Abdullah.
Amin Karim will represent Hizb-e-Islami in the delegation.
Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zakia Wardak, the President of the Society of Afghan Women in Engineering and Construction and Ayoub Ansari, the former police commander of Herat, are also on the team.
“The political reservations (political compromises) unfortunately once again hindered the way for us to attract a wider social attraction in the first step,” said Aziz Rafaee, a civil society activist in Kabul.
“I have never attended a meeting with them (Taliban) and I do not know them, but as a member of the delegation, along with five other women also there, I can assure you that they (women members of the peace team) will be effective members,” said Shahla Farid, member of the peace negotiating team.
Sources within the government have said that Stanikzai will lead the peace negotiating team.
“The delegation needs to represent the entire people of Afghanistan and it should do so,” said Abdullah Abdullah.
Ordinary Afghans called for a neutral and effective team.
“The list consists of sons of political leaders,” said Shoaib Azimi, a resident in Kabul.
“There should be neutral faces in the list,” said Ghulam Dastagir, a resident in Kabul.
The delegation was expected to be announced two weeks ago, but the political impasse which emerged in the country between Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah apparently delayed the announcement.