GENEVA: Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has formed a 12-strong negotiating team to seek a peace agreement that would include the Taliban in a democratic and inclusive society that respects the rights of women, he told a UN conference on Wednesday.
“I’m pleased to announce today that after several months of intensive consultation with our citizens across the country, we have formulated a roadmap for peace negotiations,” Ghani said.
“We have formed the required bodies and mechanisms to pursue a peace agreement. We are now moving ahead into the next chapter of the peace process.”
Meanwhile, a rash of American combat deaths in Afghanistan is putting a spotlight on a stalemated 17-year war that is testing President Donald Trump’s commitment to pursuing peace with the Taliban.
Trump has acknowledged that his original instinct was to withdraw from Afghanistan, but last week he suggested he is willing to stick it out, asserting that the US is in “very strong negotiations” — an apparent reference to US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s efforts to get the Taliban to agree to peace talks.
On the other hand, Trump indicated he had little confidence the talks are going to succeed. “Maybe they’re not. Probably they’re not,” he said.
The human cost of the conflict rarely makes headlines in the US, leaving Trump with political room to maneuver. But that might be changing.
In early November, Brent Taylor, the mayor of North Ogden, Utah, and a major in the Utah National Guard, was killed by an Afghan soldier in Kabul. Last Saturday, Sgt. Leandro Jasso, a 25-year-old Army Ranger from Leavenworth, Washington, was mortally wounded in southern Afghanistan. On Tuesday, US officials said they had determined that Jasso probably was accidentally shot by an Afghan soldier during battle with an Al-Qaeda fighter.
The US military headquarters in Kabul announced Tuesday that three US servicemembers were killed and three wounded by a roadside bomb in Ghazni province, south of Kabul, where the Taliban has been resurgent. It was the deadliest attack on US forces in Afghanistan this year.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan before US forces invaded in October 2001, carry out near-daily attacks on Afghan army and police forces, and in August the insurgents overran parts of Ghazni, leading to days of intense fighting before they were driven out. Ghazni was the only one of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces where parliamentary elections could not be held in October because of security worries. Voting there has been postponed for a year.