Afghan delegation in Pakistan for talks with Taliban


An Afghan delegation has travelled to Islamabad in the latest bid to start peace talks with the Taliban, officials said on Tuesday, though there was no confirmation the militants would take part.

In recent months there have been several informal meetings between the Taliban and Afghan officials from varied political backgrounds at venues outside Afghanistan, but little concrete progress appears to have been made.

The Taliban’s annual offensive is in full swing, with two bomb attacks in Kabul on Tuesday, even as tentative efforts are being made to negotiate an end to their 13-year insurgency.

“A delegation from the High Peace Council of Afghanistan has traveled to Pakistan for negotiations with the Taliban”, read a statement posted on Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s official Twitter account.

The High Peace Council (HPC) is the body tasked with opening negotiations with the militants. Sayed Zafar Hashemi, Ghani’s deputy spokesman, confirmed the announcement and said the delegation was being led by deputy foreign minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai.

Hashemi gave no details of the expected length of talks, subjects to be discussed or Taliban participation.

Official efforts to reopen peace negotiations with the Taliban have so far borne little fruit, but informal talks have taken place in the recent past behind a veil of secrecy.

The Taliban last month admitted taking part in informal talks in Norway with an Afghan delegation, reportedly made up of women.

And at another round of informal meetings in Qatar in May, activists said Taliban delegates, long condemned for their misogynistic ideology and lack of respect for human rights, pledged support for women’s education and their right to work in “male-dominated professions”.

The Taliban have laid down hardline preconditions for taking part in full-blown negotiations, stressing the need for the complete departure of foreign troops from Afghan soil.

NATO ended its combat mission against the militants at the end of December but a smaller force has stayed on for training and counter-terrorism operations.