US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Kabul
The US envoy for Afghan peace, Zalmay Khalilzad and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani held talks on Saturday and stressed the need for “intra-Afghan dialogue”. “Dr. Khalilzad briefed the president and other government officials about his trips and future plans for peace,” a palace statement said. “Both sides once again emphasized an intra-Afghan dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, led by the Afghan government.” Before Khalilzad embarked on his tour, the State Department said that in Doha, the Qatari capital, he will “press forward on negotiations with the Taliban to reach a consensus on core national security issues, and urge their participation in an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue.”
Loya Jirga to Proceed Despite Rejection by Political Elite
Organizers of consultative Loya Jirga say the 4-day gathering will commence tomorrow despite opposition by the major political elite. The list of elite figures, mostly political opponents of Afghan president Ashraf Ghani boycotting Consultative Peace Loya Jirga is becoming larger as former President Hamid Karzai called for the postponement of the upcoming grand peace assembly on Saturday evening. 12 presidential election tickets who had already announced opposition to the Jirga once again jointly announced boycotting the Jirga. Presidential election candidates accused the government that this Jirga is holding for the election campaign, not for peace talk’s purpose. Organizers of the government-backed Loya Jirga say it’s a consultative Loya Jirga and the political elite were not the attendees thus their absence will not affect the outcome or legitimacy of the gathering.
Some 53 servicemen and public services employees have been freed from a Taliban prison. Furthermore, there has been an unofficial exchange of prisoners between the Afghan government and Taliban in the past three months. This seems to be as part of moves by the two sides to build trust as peace talks are ongoing on different stages. A small group of soldiers and police were released by the Taliban last week some having been in detention for over two years.
In other news:
- The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in a statement, insists on direct talks between the government and the Taliban group to end the long-lasting conflicts in the country.
- National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib introduces the National Security Council’s new deputies to their colleagues. Dr. Hamdullah Mohib also received Kazakh ambassador to Kabul. The two officials discussed the expansion of bilateral ties. The national security adviser vows to draw up plans to ensure security in eastern Nangarhar province.
- A number of Kabul residents express concern over rising criminal crimes in the capital. They say they cannot come out of their homes after sunset. A spokesman for Police HQ, however, rejects the allegations, saying they have arrested a large number of criminals.