Taliban, Afghan politicians scheduled to talk in Qatar
WASHINGTON, DC -- An Intra-Afghan Dialogue Conference will be held starting on Sunday (July 7) in Qatar in a fresh attempt to make political headway in ongoing peace talks.
The Taliban have refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, and a previous attempt to bring the insurgents together with government officials in Doha collapsed in April in a dispute over attendees.
Germany, a key player in international support for the post-Taliban government, and Qatar, which maintains contacts with the militants, said that they jointly extended invitations for a dialogue in Doha on July 7-8.
The Afghans "will participate only in their personal capacity and on an equal footing", Markus Potzel, Germany's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in a statement released on Monday (July 1) by the United States.
However, the Afghan government will not take part in the meeting, Sediq Sediqqi, spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani, told Voice of America's Dari Service Tuesday (July 2).
A critical moment
"Afghanistan stands at a critical moment of opportunity for progress towards peace," he said. "An essential component of any process leading to this objective will be direct engagement between Afghans."
The meeting comes after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a previously unannounced visit last week to Kabul, where he voiced hope for a peace deal with the Taliban "before September 1".
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said that dialogue among Afghans was an essential part of a peace deal.
"Mutual acceptance, seeking consensus, and agreeing to resolve political differences without force is what is needed to learn from the tragedy of the last 40 years," Khalilzad said, referring to Afghanistan's nearly incessant conflict since the Soviet invasion in 1979.
"I wish participants success," he tweeted.
US President Donald Trump Monday said that the United States will leave a strong intelligence presence in Afghanistan.
"We will be leaving very strong intelligence, far more than you would normally think," Trump told Fox News.