Afghan president names team for Taliban peace talks

Afghan president names team for Taliban peace talks
Afghanistan's government has announced a 12 man and woman negotiating team to negotiate with the Taliban.
3 min read
29 November, 2018
Kabul has been hit by a number of Taliban attacks [Getty]

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani has announced a 12-person team for possible talks with the Taliban, as the US pushes for an end to the country's 17-year insurgency.

The government's 12-person negotiating team will include men and women for the peace talks with the Taliban. 

Ghani's chief of staff, Abdul Salam Rahimi, a former humanitarian worker and ex-deputy Afghan finance minister, will lead the delegation. 

US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who met with the Taliban in Qatar earlier this month, has put pressure on Ghani to announce a negotiating team.  

He laid out a "roadmap" for the talks that rest on four principles that he said must form the backbone of any future agreement with the Taliban.

The militants would have to accept Afghanistan's constitution and the total rejection of interference in domestic affairs by foreign "terrorist" and criminal groups. 

"We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society," Ghani said. 

The Taliban have so far rejected talks with the Kabul government, which it views as a foreign puppet.

Militant attacks have continued in Afghanistan, including on Wednesday when a bomb targeted private security company in Kabul killing at least ten.

Afghanistan's national security advisor Hamdullah Mohib said Wednesday's bomb blast would not deter from the peace push.

"Events like this bolster our resolve for peace," he said.

"We have put our step forward. The ball is now in the court of the Taliban."

Asked why he was confident negotiations with the Taliban despite the group's rejection of the government's efforts so far, Mohib claimed the militants were facing renewed pressure to talk, including from foreign backers.

"We see the stars lining up for peace at this point."

Activists are concerned that the Afghan government's dealings with the Taliban might give ground on women's rights to the militant group. 

Ghani's government has attempted to redress extreme gender gaps in Afghanistan and the president has assured diplomats that he would not compromise on women's rights if he reaches a deal with the Taliban.

At a conference in Kabul with donors, a message from UN chief Antonio Guterres, deputy under-secretary general Rosemary A. DiCarlo said: "We may have a rare opportunity to move to direct peace talks between the Afghan Government and the Taliban. We must not miss it."

European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told the conference that Europe believes "it is time for concrete talks about peace to begin".

The EU was prepared to act as the "guarantor" of the negotiations, she added. 

Ghani said earlier this month it was "not a question of if, but when" an agreement would be reached with the Taliban. Khalilzad has said he is "cautiously optimistic" for an end to the conflict.