Doha talks continue behind locked doors: Is the Afghan Government part of the process?

Peace talks between U.S. negotiators and Taliban representatives in Doha continued still behind tightly locked doors, and in absence of the Afghan Government. Analysis of the mood suggests that both sides are enjoying a positive negotiation environment. The extended bilateral talks suggest that the two sides might have made acceptable progress on contentious issues such as troop withdrawal and guarantees by the Taliban to ensure that Afghan soil is not used against the American interests. However, intensification of battlefield activities by the Taliban with no ceasefire insights and lack of progress towards the intra-Afghan dialogue is a serious cause of concern.

The sophisticated Taliban attacks in Baghlan and Kabul received a harsh response from President Ghani. His reaction indicates that there is not any step taken on the latter two issues of the peace negotiations; the talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government, and a lasting cease-fire. In the meantime, lack of information sharing has fuelled speculations that there might be additional issues – over and above the agreed agenda – under discussion which leaves the observers in a state of bothering about the ongoing peace negotiations.

As AAU earlier shared, the current scenario might be cause of concern for the Afghan Government. Continuation of the talks without the engagement of the Afghan side damages the trust of Afghan Government and lack of inclusivity might leave Kabul and Washington at loggerheads right at a time when US Envoy for the Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad might have reached informal agreements with the Taliban delegation in Qatar. In such a scenario, it is very much possible that the talks might face a serious road bump. Without the buy-in of the Afghan Government, it is certainly going to be a huge challenge to reach a peace deal with the Taliban.

 

Attackers targeted foreign aid group with complex attack

At least 5 people including 4 civilians & police were killed and 24 others wounded in a Taliban group attack on an INGO in Kabul. Nasrat Rahimi, spokesman of Ministry of Interior says all 5 attackers were killed and 200 people were evacuated from the compound. The blast comes just over two weeks after gunmen targeted the communications ministry in central Kabul, killing at least seven people in an attack claimed by Islamic State.

Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack that targeted the non-profit Counterpart International in the upscale Shahr Naw area of the capital. Mr. Mujahid accused Counterpart International of conducting “harmful Western activities inside Afghanistan.”

The attack was widely condemned. In a statement, Mr. Ghani condemned the attack, calling it “an unforgivable crime” that violated Afghan and Islamic values. John R. Bass, the American ambassador, condemned the attack as an act of “senseless violence.” “The targeted organization helps local communities, trains journalists and supports the Afghan people,” Mr. Bass wrote on Twitter. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan called the attack “particularly deplorable, hitting civilians helping Afghans & taking place during Ramadan.”

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