Taliban co-founder in Qatar for talks with US
Doha, Feb. 25 (IANS): Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has arrived in Qatar to attend the next round of talks with the US slated to begin here on Monday, officials said, adding that these could be the highest-level negotiations on ending the Afghan war.
The talks are expected to focus on the details of a framework deal that the two sides reached in principle last month, The New York Times reported.
Under that framework, American troops would withdraw from Afghanistan in return for a Taliban guarantee that Afghan territory would never be used by terrorists.
The Taliban have refused to meet the Afghan government but President Ashraf Ghani has insisted that the peace talks will not go anywhere unless the insurgents formally sit with his administration.
American officials have said that any final agreement would require the insurgents to meet with Afghan officials and to declare a cease-fire to ease the burden of a war that is taking lives in record numbers.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the special envoy leading the American delegation, said he would be pushing the insurgents to agree to the steps with the Afghan side.
Mullah Baradar’s arrival in Doha on Sunday from Pakistan, where he had been detained for years, was confirmed to The New York Times by a Western official who requested anonymity.
Sayid Akbar Agha, a former Taliban official, also confirmed the news, saying: “Mullah Baradar reached Doha… and he will take part in peace talks with Khalilzad.”
Mullah Baradar was instrumental in Taliban’s regrouping as a strong insurgency after the US toppled their regime in 2001.
He was arrested in a joint operation of Pakistani and American agents near Karachi in 2010. In October 2018, the Taliban confirmed that Pakistan had released him.
But earlier this month, the US claimed that Baradar was released at US’ request to help expedite the peace talks.
Last month, the two sides held marathon talks in Doha with discussions primarily focused on the US troops’ withdrawal and assurances that Afghan soil would not be used again by any terrorist organisation.