Afghanistan: Taliban-Government Talks Begin

Kabul had already released some 5,000 Taliban prisoners, as at Pul-e-Charkhi prison, in Kabul, on August 13, 2020. National Security Council of Afghanistan / Handout via REUTERS

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4 min

The Afghan government and the Taliban are starting historic peace negotiations this Saturday, September 12, in Doha, in the presence of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The discussions promise to be laborious because of the deep differences between the two belligerents.


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These talks

have been delayed for six months due to deep disagreements over a controversial rebel-government prisoner swap.

They come in the wake of the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which led to the international intervention led by the United States, which ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.

Both sides must find a way " 

to move the country forward to reduce violence and meet the demands of the Afghans: a country reconciled with a government that reflects a nation that is not at war,

 " said Mike Pompeo, on the eve of these talks.

The Secretary of State is due to participate in the opening of negotiations and is expected later this Saturday in Cyprus.

US President Donald Trump, whose re-election in November is uncertain, is determined to end the longest war in US history at all costs.

But a quick resolution of the conflict seems unlikely and the duration of the negotiations is not known.

Irreconcilable objectives

The Taliban have reiterated their desire to establish a system in which the law is dictated by strict Islam.

They do not recognize the government in Kabul, referred to

 as Washington's




The government of President Ashraf Ghani insists on its side to maintain the young Republic and its Constitution, which enshrined many rights, in particular for religious minorities and women who would be the big losers of a return to the practices in force under the yoke of the Taliban.

The question of the exchange of prisoners, some 5,000 Taliban for a thousand members of the Afghan forces, provided for in a historic agreement between the Taliban and the United States in February in Doha, had been a first obstacle, delaying negotiations.

After hesitation, the Afghan authorities finally released the last 400 insurgents.

Several countries, including France and Australia, had protested against their release.

The United States' envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, justified these releases on Friday from Doha, saying that it was " 

a difficult Afghan decision but necessary to open the negotiations


The Taliban in a position of strength

The Taliban have however been in a position of strength since the signing of the agreement with the United States which provides for a withdrawal of American troops and the holding of this inter-Afghan dialogue.

Qatar has quietly tried to mediate, complicated by the continuing violence in Afghanistan and the Covid-19 pandemic.

Qatari chief negotiator Mutlaq al-Qahtani, however, on Thursday highlighted the " 

power of diplomacy


The Afghan conflict has killed tens of thousands of people, including 2,400 American soldiers, forced millions more to flee, and cost Washington more than a trillion dollars.

Many Afghans

fear the return to partial or total power of the Taliban, which hosted the jihadist network Al-Qaeda before September 11, 2001.




Read also: Afghanistan: the population divided on the talks between the Taliban and the government


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  • Afghanistan

  • Ashraf Ghani

  • Taliban

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