KABUL -- Afghan authorities lambasted the Taliban Wednesday (January 20) for failing to actively participate in peace talks seeking to end the country's long-running war.
Following months of deliberations and a first round that failed to achieve any major breakthrough, the Afghan government and Taliban are meeting again in Qatar -- but so far only discussing the agenda for the second round of talks.
"Unfortunately, the talks are going at a snail's pace," Waheed Omar, media adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, told reporters.
"The Taliban have no clear vision. We see no changes in them."
Kabul is pushing for a permanent ceasefire and making efforts to protect 2001 governance arrangements in place, which were implemented after the Taliban's ouster.
But since the second round of talks began on January 6 in Doha, there has been no substantive announcement on how the negotiations were proceeding.
Country reels from spike in killings
The talks have been marred by a surge in violence and a recent spike in assassinations. The Taliban are accused of killing a number of high-profile officials, judges, journalists and activists, a spree of slayings that has left the war-weary country reeling.
There is no plan to release more Taliban prisoners to help spur the talks along, said Omar, adding that the government's previous experience of releasing insurgents had failed to reduce fighting.
"The Taliban not only did not reduce the violence; they increased the violence," he said.
Before the start of the peace talks on September 12, authorities released over 5,000 Taliban inmates as demanded by the group in a deal with Washington last year.
Based on the US-Taliban agreement, the Taliban have to sever ties with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups and to participate in peace talks aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan.
The Taliban's sheltering of al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, was the main justification for the US-led effort to overthrow the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001.
So far, the evidence shows the Taliban and al-Qaeda continue to collaborate on complex terrorist attacks in Afghanistan.
Review of US-Taliban deal pending
On Tuesday (January 19), Antony Blinken, incoming US President Joe Biden's nominee for secretary of State, said he would undertake a review of the deal that the United States signed with the Taliban last year.
The United States pledged to pull out all its forces from Afghanistan by May 2021. Under the landmark deal signed last February 29, 2,500 US troops remain stationed in Afghanistan.
"We want to end this so-called forever war. We want to bring our forces home. We want to retain some capacity to deal with any resurgence of terrorism, which is what brought us there in the first place," Blinken told US Senate members in his confirmation hearing.
Blinken promised to consider the rights of women and girls whose freedoms were severely curtailed during the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime.
Any outcome of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban will be unsustainable "without protecting the gains that have been made by women and girls in Afghanistan over the last 20 years", he said.