Currently, the approach of Afghanistan and US officials is to concentrate on peace with the Taliban group as the only way to end the ongoing war and violence in Afghanistan is to negotiate with the Taliban.
Based on media reports, five senior Taliban leaders had joined the political office of Taliban in Qatar to follow peace talks with Afghanistan government or the US administration. Taliban has confirmed to Associated Press (AP) that the former Guantanamo inmates were now a part of the political team. According to Taliban officials, Taliban political representatives held two meetings with US officials in Qatar over the past three months and both sides agreed to continue talks.
Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) says it welcomes any step that results in starting peace talks with the Taliban group.
“Undoubtedly it is the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process and other countries of the region and world are providing technical cooperation to Afghanistan in this regard. We welcome any step that can result in acceleration of peace process and starting peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban and see it as good omen for Afghanistan,” said Sayed Ihsan Tahiri, a spokesperson to HPC.
According to media reports, the freed Taliban leaders are former interior mainister Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, Taliban’s former army chief Muhammad Fazil, former governor of Balkh and Laghman Noorullah Noori, deputy intelligence chief of the Taliban regime Abdul HaqWasiq and Taliban’s communication chief Nabi Omari.
The five Taliban leaders had been in Qatar since their release from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in May 2014 in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was held hostage by the Taliban for nearly five years.
It is said that the inclusion of the influential Taliban leaders in the negotiation team is a major step toward the beginning of formal talks. Presence of the Taliban key figures in Qatar came after US Secretary of State’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met members of the group in Qatar.
Besides meeting with members of the Taliban group in Qatar, Khalilzad has met with government officials of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar and Pakistan. After meeting with the Pakistani officials, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of key leader of the Taliban group was released last week.
An Afghan lawmaker Daud Kalakani told The Kabul Times correspondent that some pre-conditions of the Taliban group have been accepted and dispatching five key figures of the group to Qatar has increased hopes for starting of peace talks with the group. According to media reports, Mullah Baradar might also play a political role in the peace talks. It is also said that the former deputy chief of the Taliban group is likely to join the negotiation team based in Qatar.