Relatives react in front of a hospital, where their family member has been transferred for treatment after a truck bomb blast in Balkh province, in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan August 25, 2020.Picture copyright
Reuters

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Three generations after a bomb blast in Balkh province – many Afghans have by no means recognized peace

The primary peace talks between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban are on account of start within the Gulf state of Qatar on Saturday, after months of delay.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo known as the assembly “historic” as he flew to Doha for the opening ceremony.

The talks have been on account of begin after a US-Taliban safety deal in February.

However disagreements over a controversial prisoner swap stalled the subsequent stage, as did violence in Afghanistan, the place 4 a long time of battle are at a stalemate.

A delegation of main Afghans left Kabul for Doha on Friday – 11 September, the day 19 years in the past of the lethal assaults on the US which led to the top of Taliban rule.

The pinnacle of the delegation, Abdullah Abdullah, mentioned they have been looking for “a simply and dignified peace”.

On Thursday the Taliban confirmed they’d attend, after a remaining group of six prisoners have been launched.

What to anticipate from the talks

These are the primary direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan authorities. The militants had till now refused to fulfill the federal government, calling them powerless and American “puppets”.

The 2 sides are aiming for political reconciliation and an finish to a long time of violence, which started with the 1979 Soviet invasion.

The talks have been meant to start in March however have been repeatedly delayed by a dispute over the prisoner alternate agreed within the February US-Taliban deal, in addition to violence within the nation.

The separate however linked US-Taliban settlement set out a timetable for the withdrawal of international forces, in alternate for counter-terrorism ensures.

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Media captionIs peace with the Taliban potential?

That settlement took over a yr to finalise, and the government-Taliban talks are anticipated to be much more sophisticated. Many worry that fragile progress made in women’s rights could be sacrificed within the course of.

The talks additionally current a problem to the Taliban, who should convey ahead a tangible political imaginative and prescient for Afghanistan. They’ve up to now been imprecise, stating they want to see an “Islamic” but in addition “inclusive” authorities.

The talks might present extra proof of how the militant group has modified because the Nineties, once they dominated utilizing a harsh interpretation of Sharia legislation.

You possibly can really feel the thrill within the glittering nice halls of the Sheraton Grand Doha resort: Afghan negotiators, officers, journalists speeding in from their chartered flight from Kabul; international diplomats who’ve spent years inching in the direction of this second now hurrying backward and forward; and some Taliban slipping by the crowds on the eve of the large day.

It has been a very long time coming in a battle which exacts such a heavy worth. There’s anticipation. Apprehension too.

All that is sure is after a gap ceremony with hours of speeches – the “present” as some name it – there will likely be “Afghan talks.”

How lengthy they are going to speak this time, about what, and by which method, continues to be unsure.

Everybody emphasises these are Afghan selections. And there is no settlement but, even inside all sides.

It is the beginning of a protracted course of with no certainty of success. However even a begin is one thing in a battle which appears countless.

What was in February’s deal?

The US and its Nato allies agreed to withdraw all troops inside 14 months, whereas the Taliban dedicated to not permit al-Qaeda or every other extremist group to function within the areas they management.

The US additionally agreed to raise sanctions in opposition to the Taliban and work with the UN to raise its separate sanctions in opposition to the group, in addition to slicing its troop numbers within the nation from about 12,000 to eight,600 and shutting a number of bases.

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Media captionThe US and the Taliban mark the signing of their settlement in Doha

US-led troops have been current in Afghanistan for almost 20 years, after launching air strikes to oust the Taliban in 2001 following the lethal 9/11 al-Qaeda assaults in New York. The Taliban, who protected al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, had refused handy him over.

The Afghan authorities didn’t participate within the February accord, however had anticipated to start peace talks with the Taliban in March.

The deal additionally supplied for a prisoner swap of about 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 detained Afghan safety personnel to be finalised earlier than the deliberate begin of the March talks.

What’s occurred since?

Authorities and Taliban negotiators disagreed over the numbers of prisoners to be freed and who they’d be. The persevering with violence additionally held issues up.

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EPA

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Taliban prisoners getting ready to go away a authorities jail in Kabul in August

A few of the males the Taliban wished freed have been commanders believed to have been concerned in main assaults.

“We can not launch the killers of our folks,” a authorities negotiator mentioned on the time.

Based on a report by the Washington Submit final month, three Afghans accused of involvement within the deaths of US troops have been additionally a sticking level.

Progress was gradual, however in August the Afghan authorities started to free the ultimate 400 Taliban prisoners, after the transfer was approved by a grand assembly, or loya jirga of elders.

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EPA

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Delegates attended the loya jirga to debate the discharge of Taliban prisoners

Not all the group of 400 have been launched right away, after each France and Australia objected to liberating six prisoners accused of deadly assaults in opposition to their nationals, together with humanitarian employees.

Their launch and switch to Doha on the eve of talks eliminated the ultimate hurdle.

The US’s longest battle

At 19 years, the battle in Afghanistan – codenamed Operation Enduring Freedom and later Operation Freedom’s Sentinel – has been the longest in US historical past.

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Reuters

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Taliban assaults have soared since US-led troops ended their fight mission

On the outset in 2001, the US was joined in its battle by a world coalition, and the Taliban have been shortly faraway from energy. However the militant group morphed into an rebel drive that dug in and launched lethal assaults in opposition to US-led forces and the Afghan navy, in addition to Afghan authorities officers.

The worldwide coalition ended its fight mission in 2014. The overall coalition loss of life toll by that time was almost 3,500. Greater than 2,400 US navy personnel have been killed. The UK misplaced greater than 450 of its troopers.

The Watson Institute at Brown University estimated in November 2019 that greater than 43,000 civilians had been killed, with 64,000 Afghan safety personnel and 42,000 anti-government fighters lifeless. The true numbers won’t ever be recognized.

The US continued its personal, scaled-back fight operation after 2014, together with air strikes. The Taliban in the meantime continued to achieve momentum and now management extra territory than at any time since 2001.

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Media captionZan TV presenter Ogai Wardak: “If the Taliban come, I’ll battle them”