Two-day talks between Afghan rivals end without any progress


Doha :   The latest round of talks between the Afghan government and Taliban in Doha ended without any progress on Sunday despite the group’s supreme leader throwing his weight behind a political settlement to the conflict.
Senior representatives of the Kabul government including head of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah flew in for two days of intensive talks as Taliban pushes a sweeping offensive across Afghanistan.
They had sought to revive long-stalled peace talks, but in a joint statement agreed on the need to reach a “just solution” and to meet again “next week”.
Ahead of the second day of talks, Taliban supreme leader Hibatullah Akhundzada had said “the Islamic Emirate strenuously favours a political settlement” despite the groups lightning victories on the ground.
But the Qatari facilitator of the talks said at the end of the two days that the sides had merely agreed to “work to prevent civilian casualties”, far short of previously agreed ceasefires.
“The two sides agreed to continue negotiations at a high level until a settlement is reached. For this purpose, they will meet again next week,” said Qatar’s counter-terrorism envoy Mutlaq al-Qahtani who oversees the talks for Doha.
For months, the two sides have been meeting intermittently in the Qatari capital, but have achieved little if any notable success. The discussions appear to have lost momentum as the militants made enormous gains on the battlefield.
Taliban leader Akhundzada has said his group remained committed to forging a solution to end the war, but slammed the group’s opponents for “wasting time”.
The group capitalised on the last stages of the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops from Afghanistan to launch a series of lightning offensives across the country.
The group is now believed to control roughly half of the nation’s 400 districts, several important border crossings, and has laid siege to a string of vital provincial capitals.
A spokesman for the Afghan security forces said that pro-government fighters had conducted 244 operations, killing 967 “enemy” fighters — including key commanders.