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US, Taliban Discuss Troop Withdrawal, Ceasefire In Qatar

Analysts say the appointment of Mullah Baradar as head of Qatar office has raised hopes on the peace process.

On the fifth day of the talks between US and Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar, the negotiations were around withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and a ceasefire, sources familiar with Doha talks said.

According to the sources, the US and Taliban officials’ talks were focused on issues around a timetable for forces withdrawal from Afghanistan, reaching an agreement on announcing a ceasefire and assurance from Taliban to the US that Afghanistan will not change to a center of insurgency.

The talks were initially scheduled for two days.

“The issues are Taliban political legitimacy, ceasefire and permanent peace. One issue which is very important is talks with Afghanistan government, because Taliban has not talked with Afghan government delegation,” said Bilal Ahmad Niazi, a political affairs analyst.

Sources close to Taliban said that in Thursday talks the Taliban assured that they will not allow any group to stage attacks against other nations from Afghanistan territory.

Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Envoy Umer Daudzai led a delegation to China on Friday to build regional consensus on the Afghan peace process.

In his visit to Beijing, Daudzai met with Deng Xijun, China’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they discussed regional consensus on the Afghan peace process and the role of China in the process.

“Talks will be held on Afghan peace process and facilitating peace and security in Afghanistan. Also talks will focus on economy in the region and the (transit) routes which go through Afghanistan,” Sayed Ehsan Taheri, spokesman of the High Peace Council said.

Analysts suggest that the appointment of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar as head of Taliban’s Qatar office has raised hopes for reaching peace in Afghanistan.

Baradar was appointed on Thursday as head of Qatar office and third deputy head of Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, the leader of Taliban. Taliban’s leadership council also have brought changes in eight military and non-military commissions of the group and have appointed some new figures in those commissions.

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid told TOLOnews that Baradar can help in Afghanistan peace process, because for long time he was interested in peace and now his appointment as head of the office is a good sign for Afghan peace.

“Mullah Baradar was a very strong supporter of a peace process back in 2010 when he was arrested by the Pakistani authorities and kept in jail for many years. He is now been released and he has been promoted in the Taliban hierarchy to become a deputy leader and he has been given full authority. It seems to negotiate with the Americans. Mullah Ghani Baradar was known as somebody who wanted peace in Afghanistan and he was very much in touch with the government of Kabul in 2010,” said Rashid.

Some former members of Taliban said the new changes in Taliban’s team shows commitment of the Taliban to the peace talks.

“Inclusion of Mullah Ghani Baradar in politics and also giving him the authority and his appointment as deputy head of the group's leader shows that Taliban is interested (in peace) and believes in peace process. Also, it shows that full authority has been given to the political commission and it means that the commission does not need lots of consultation,” said Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, a former Taliban member.

While sources said the US officials and Taliban representatives have agreed on some issues, but still enough details are not available about the agreements.

Baradar was released from a Pakistan prison in October last year. Baradar, also known as Mullah Baradar Akhund or Mullah Brother, is a co-founder of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan. He was Mullah Mohammed Omar, the founding leader of the Taliban’s deputy.

Baradar was captured in Pakistan by a team of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officers in February 2010.

[Source: By Haseba Atakpal, Tolo News, Kabul, 25Jan19]

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