Image for representational purposes only.
Despite peace talks, Taliban militants attacked police checkpoints late Sunday night in the remote Afghan province of Badakhshan, killing at least 16 policemen. The insurgents said in a statement to media that the assaults were part of their annual spring offensive, which began late last month. According to the Associated Press, a Taliban suicide bomber struck a bus carrying government workers in the capital, Kabul, on Monday morning, killing one person and wounding 13. The Taliban also claimed responsibility for that bombing.
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The Taliban launched their annual spring offensive on April 24 with an attack on the northern city of Kunduz, amid calls from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for the group to join the government. During talks, Afghan officials believe negotiations are heading in the right direction. An Afghan official familiar with both sides in the Qatar discussions said: “It is a good starting point. We will ask them to go ahead prudently and wisely to find a political solution rather than intensify military activity, which is causing the loss of innocent life.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the discussions have not been made public.
Peace talks were hosted by the government of Qatar and the Pugwash Council, a global conflict resolution group, on Sunday and Monday, billed as unofficial and “not supposed to be any sort of negotiation.” The council issued a statement of “common points” that emerged during the talks, the most significant of which was probably the toned-down Taliban position on foreign forces in Afghanistan.
“Everybody agreed that foreign forces have to leave Afghanistan soon,” the Pugwash statement said. But in noting an apparent retreat by the Taliban from its insistence on full withdrawal of outside forces before formal peace talks can begin, the statement observed that “some expressed concern that there should be an agreement among Afghan political forces before the departure of the foreign forces.”
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Both sides agreed that the Taliban should open a political office in Doha, Qatar, which would serve as a place where future negotiations might take place–and that the Constitution of Afghanistan was up for discussion.This was the first time in which both parties seemed willing to publicize their points of agreement.
Despite the Taliban’s recent aggression, Afghan officials do not believe it will stall negotiations.
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