Amid rifts, Afghan gov’t finalizes list of delegates for talks

List of negotiation team for intra-Afghan talks has been finalized and its details will be made public once the date for starting the intra-Afghan talks is set, said Waheed Omer, director general at Office of Public and Strategic Affairs of the Afghan government.

According to the US-Taliban peace agreement signed on February 29, the intra-Afghan talks was scheduled to kick off on March 10, after prisoner swap between the Afghan government and the Taliban militants.

President Ghani opposed the agreement on prisoners release the following day, March 01, but changed his stance while taking oath for another term in office after a long delayed inauguration ceremony. In his new stance, Ghani offered a phased and condition-based release of the Taliban prisoners.

Ghani’s plan was, however, immediately rejected by the Taliban’s spokesperson for the group’s political office in Qatar, Suhail Shaheen. He reiterated that they wanted the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in line with the peace accord signed with the US. “Our very condition is that the detainees are acceptable if verified by our team,” he added.

Speaking at a press conference in Kabul today, March 15, Mr. Omer said that the Afghan government is currently working on a list of the Taliban prisoners to classify, evaluate, and identify them in accordance to their age and type of crimes. As he stated, the Taliban prisoners will be released gradually based on the “evaluations” of the Afghan government.

Pointing to political tensions raised as the result of Afghanistan’s disputed presidential elections, Mr. Omer said that Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is the elected president of Afghanistan.

Latest confrontations

In his latest confrontation with Abdullah, in a decree, Ghani dissolved Office of the Chief Executive of the National Unity Government (NUG), established in 2014.  In a counteract move, Abdullah announced that the NUG’s term was over and Ghani is no longer the president of Afghanistan. Abdullah noted that he will introduce the new chief executive soon.

On March 12, Abdullah said that he had discussed the ongoing situation and peace issue with the UN’s Secretary General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, in Sapidar palace. “President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, met with the UN’s special representative for Afghanistan, Yamamoto, this morning, March 12,” part of the statement issued on his official Facebook page reads.

On March 13, Mr. Yamamoto was summoned by deputy and acting foreign minister, Mohammad Haroon Chakhansuri. “Discussing matters related to Afghan politics must not be in contradiction to the Constitution of Afghanistan and international norms,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) quoted Mr. Chakhansuri as reminding to the UN’s envoy for his meeting with Abdullah. According to the ministry, Mr. Yamamoto has responded that the UN is neither recognizing, nor supporting any parallel government while passing congratulatory message of the UN’s Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, for President Ghani’s inauguration.

Efforts underway to create inclusive government

Though the US special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, failed to bring the two rivals under another power-sharing government, foreign and national mediators appear to put efforts to bring the two rivals in common terms. According to Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty, Khalilzad has said US officials were trying to mediate an agreement between Ghani and Abdullah.

Former president Hamid Karzai and a prominent jihadi leader, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf, have also attempted to convince Ghani and Abdullah on forming a government acceptable by all parties.

Meanwhile, second vice president of Abdullah, Assadullah Saadati, told Kabul Now that there is no possibility of integrating the “inclusive government” announced by Abdullah into a government led by Ashraf Ghani.