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ISLAMABAD (AP) – With the rise in violence, warring parties in Afghanistan have returned to the negotiating table, ending more than a month of delays in the hope that the two sides can agree on a reduction in violence – and ultimately an outright ceasefire.

Taliban spokesman Dr Mohammad Naeem tweeted on Monday evening that talks have resumed in the state of Qatar in the Middle East, where the insurgent movement maintains a political office. There was no detail other than the atmosphere was “cordial”, a commitment that negotiations would continue and an announcement that the first item on the agenda will set the agenda.

When talks ended abruptly in January, just days after the start, both sides put their wishlists on the agenda. It is now up to both parties to sift through the respective wish lists, agree on the points to be negotiated and the order in which they will be addressed.

The priority of the Afghan government, Washington and NATO is a serious reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire. The Taliban said it was negotiable, but have so far resisted any immediate ceasefire.

Washington is examining the February 2020 peace agreement that the previous Trump administration signed with the Taliban and which calls for the final withdrawal of international forces by May 1. within the withdrawal period.

There is even a suggestion of a small intelligence-based force left behind that would focus almost exclusively on counterterrorism and an increasingly active and murderous affiliate of Islamic State, headquartered in the United States. east of Afghanistan.

But neither Washington nor NATO have yet announced a decision on the fate of around 10,000 soldiers, including 2,500 American soldiers, still in Afghanistan. The Biden administration has focused on a political solution to the protracted Afghan conflict, has held back Zalmay Khalilzad, the man who negotiated the US peace deal with the Taliban and has so far avoided any definitive statements on the issue. way forward.

The resumption of talks in Doha follows a storm of diplomatic activity, including a steady flow of officials into Pakistan and its powerful army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa. Pakistan is seen as essential in bringing the Taliban back to the table, but also in putting pressure on the insurgent movement __ whose leadership is based in Pakistan __ to reduce violence in Afghanistan.

Last week, the head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth F. McKenzie, was in Islamabad, as were the Afghan envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Zamir Kabulov and the special envoy of the Qatari Foreign Ministry, the Dr Mutlaq Bin Majed Al Qahtani. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy Umar Daudzai is due in Islamabad on Wednesday.

Although details of the meetings were sketchy, Afghanistan featured prominently and officials familiar with the talks said a reduction in violence and a possible ceasefire dominated discussions.

Pakistan, which still hosts 1.5 million Afghan refugees, has repeatedly said the only solution in Afghanistan is political and has already been credited with bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table.

The latest diplomatic activity in Islamabad also comes coincidentally as Pakistan is discussed at an ongoing meeting this week in Paris of the Financial Action Task Force on Terrorist Financing and Money Laundering. Pakistan is currently on a so-called gray list, the last step before a blacklist that would seriously erode the country’s ability to borrow money.

Few analysts expect Pakistan to be blacklisted, which so far only includes Iran and North Korea, but Islamabad is pushing to be graylisted. While Pakistan has allies, like China, among the 37 member countries that make up the FATF, the support of Russia and the United States is essential to be removed from the gray list.

The issues ahead for the Taliban and the Afghan government are always thorny, and it is not immediately clear whether a country has sufficient influence over either party to forge a lasting peace deal.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has categorically refused an interim administration and his critics accuse him of wanting to retain power. Meanwhile, a Taliban official says they want a “new Islamic government” that does not include Ghani, but declined to give details on that government and whether it would even include elections. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

In an open letter to the American people last week, the Taliban’s main negotiator in the US / Taliban deal, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar urged respect for the agreement, pledged rights for men and women ” based on Islamic law ”without stipulating, vowed not to interfere in any other country, and also vowed to end the world’s largest poppy harvest, which produces opium used in the production of heroin.

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Associate News Editor Tameem Akhgar in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report


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