Historic peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government were launched in Doha on Saturday.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo landed in the Qatari capital on Friday to take part in historic peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Pompeo assured it was the decision of the two warring sides “how to move their country forward” as US forces continued to withdraw from the war -torn country.
“We will undoubtedly counter many challenges in the talks over the coming days, weeks and months. Remember you are acting not only for this generation of Afghans but for future generations as well, your children and your grandchildren,” the US official said at the opening ceremony in Doha.
Similar sentiments were shared by the former chief executive for Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah, who called for immediate ceasefire amid an increase in violence that has seen thousands killed since February.
“We have to use this exceptional opportunity for peace,” Abdullah said at the talks’ opening ceremony in Doha.
“We have to stop violence and agree on a ceasefire as soon as possible. We want a humanitarian ceasefire.”
The talks, which were delayed on several occasions in the last six months, were also attended by Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Notably, the talks were launched on September 12, just a day after the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that triggered the US invasion into Afghanistan over accusations the Taliban were hosting slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The talks also come ahead of the upcoming US elections in November.
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US President Donald Trump has been keen to push for last-minute achievements to secure his re-election, including ending the United States’ longest war and withdrawing all foreign forces from the country.
However, schisms between the warring factions remain deep and a comprehensive peace deal is unlikely to emerge prior to the election.
So far, the Taliban has rejected Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani’s government and are insistent on reshaping the country into an Islamic “emirate”.
Leading rights organisations have called on all participants to uphold basic rights as they define the future of the country.
“All participants in any future Afghan government should commit to institutions and processes to uphold women’s rights and a free press, end torture in custody and ensure justice for abuses,” Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch said.
The talks come six months after the signing of a Qatari-mediated deal that mapped out a schedule for negotiations.
Doha’s chief negotiator Mutlaq al-Qahtani on Thursday stressed on “the power of diplomacy” ahead of the talks on Saturday.
Qatar has been attempting to broker peace between the warring factions since 2013 when it invited the Taliban to open a political office in Doha. The tiny Gulf state played a key role in February’s deal between Washington and the Taliban that saw the start of US troop withdrawal from the war-torn country.
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