A new round of inter-Afghan talks began in the Qatari capital Doha amid the advance of Taliban militants all over Afghanistan.
The negotiations are held behind closed doors. The delegations should discuss the establishment of transitional government, the exchange of prisoners and a ceasefire agreement.
The delegation of the Afghan government includes senior politicians for the first time since the first official meeting in September 2020.Head of the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, Yunus Qanooni, Karim Khalili, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Salam Rahimi, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, Enayatullah Baligh and Fatima Gailani reportedly came to Doha.
Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai refused to join the official delegation at the last moment.
The delegation of the Taliban is headed by the head of the political office of this movement in Qatar, Mullah Baradar Akhund.
Prior to the official meeting, Afghan government negotiator claimed that the Taliban have offered a three-month ceasefire in exchange for the release of thousands of fighters held in prisons. However, the spokesman for the Afghan government’s negotiating team in Doha Nader Nadery said it was a “big demand”.
“The Taliban has offered a plan for a three-month ceasefire, but in exchange they have asked for the release of 7,000 of their prisoners and the removal of their leaders from the UN blacklist,” he told reporters in Kabul.
On its part, a spokesman for the Taliban claimed that he was not aware of this suggestion, highlighting that the parties were going to discuss the possibility of a ceasefire over the forthcoming Eid al-Adha holiday.
The last prisoners’ release took place in 2020 as a move that helped launch peace talks in Qatar. The Afghan government liberated almost 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The measures were agreed as part of the Taliban-US agreement, which also called for the withdrawal of US forces from the country.
Unfortunately, the ongoing negotiations have not led to any significant agreement yet. The two sides have been meeting for months in Doha but the talks have not prevented the Taliban’s offensive in almost all strategic areas in Afghanistan.
The movement has recently captured border crossings with Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Now, the main battlefield seems to be the southern border crossing with Pakistan.
Spin Boldak was captured by Taliban on July 14. Afghan forces reportedly launched an operation to retake the key border crossing later on July 16. According to the numerous videos and local reports, the border crossing is still under the Taliban’s control.
— Dr. Drexluddin Khan Spiveyzai Kayani (Drexy Baba) (@RisboLensky) July 17, 2021
— Islamic World Update (@islamicworldupd) July 17, 2021
A highway through this border crossing is leading to Pakistan’s city of Karachi and the port on the Arabian Sea. This rout has been used for billion-dollar heroin trade from Afghanistan.
On July 17, Tolo news reported that a Reuters photojournalist was killed in clashes in Spin Boldak district. The Indian journalist Danish Siddiqui was covering the situation in Kandahar.
The Shekh Ali district of Parwan province, 70 km north of Kabul, was liberated from Taliban’s control, the press center of the Afghanistan Ministry of Internal Affairs reported on July 17.
Despite some less significant success in several areas, like Chakhansur district in Nimruz province or Kohmard in Bamyan province, Kabul loses control over strategically important cities.
On July 17, Taliban attacked Sare Pol city, the center of Sare Pol province. Heavy fighting is taking place between the army and the popular mobilization with the Taliban.
Sheberghan city, the center of Jowzjan province, was also under attack of Taliban. Militants have entered the suburbs of the city, and heavy fighting is on-going there.
Amid the impotence of Kabul forces to stop Taliban militants, it seems possible that the ongoing negotiations between the official delegations may soon result in any ceasefire agreement, likely unfavorable for the government representatives.
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