Peace hopes suffer setback as Taliban-Afghan talks derailed

Peace hopes suffer setback as Taliban-Afghan talks derailed

DOHA
Peace hopes suffer setback as Taliban-Afghan talks derailed

Hopes for a breakthrough in a push to end Afghanistan’s grueling conflict suffered a major setback on April 19 after a key summit between the Taliban and Afghan officials was indefinitely postponed.

The so-called intra-Afghan dialogue, due to take place in Doha this weekend, fell apart at the last minute in a row over the large number of delegates Kabul wanted to send.

The collapse comes at a critical time and amid continued bloodshed. The Taliban now control or influence about half of Afghanistan and 3,804 civilians were killed there last year, according to a U.N. tally.

Washington, which is leading an effort to end the war, signaled its disappointment and urged both sides to return to the table, though organizers gave no hint about when the conference might be rescheduled.

Sultan Barakat, who heads the group that was to host the event, said in a statement the postponement was “necessary to build further consensus as to who should participate.”

“Clearly the moment is not yet right,” added Barakat, the director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies.

President Ashraf Ghani’s administration had on April 16 announced a list of 250 people from all walks of Afghan life, including government figures, who it wanted to send to Doha.

But the Taliban poured scorn on the lengthy list, saying the conference is “not an invitation to some wedding or other party at a hotel in Kabul.”

Though the insurgents insisted they would only talk to Ghani’s government in a “personal capacity,” any contact between the two parties in Doha would have been hugely significant, especially at a time when Afghanistan is being ripped by fresh violence after the Taliban announced their annual spring offensive.

Taliban, Afghanistan, doha