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Logistical Issues Delay Start Of Intra-Afghan Talks In Qatar

Members of the Taliban negotiating team arrived in Qatar on September 5.
Members of the Taliban negotiating team arrived in Qatar on September 5.

KABUL -- Afghan negotiators have postponed a scheduled trip to Doha for long-awaited peace talks with the Taliban because of logistical issues at the venue of the talks in the Qatari capital.

A date for the start of the negotiations has not been set, but both sides have indicated that talks could begin soon after they finalized a months-long prisoner exchange last week.

Afghan negotiators had initially expected to fly to Doha late last week ahead of talks starting as soon as September 7.

But Afghan officials said the team is not expected to leave until September 8 at the earliest.

The Taliban’s negotiating team arrived in Qatar on September 5.

Afghan presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said on September 7 that both sides were making final preparations.

“Technical issues and preparations are almost complete. We hope that the Taliban also finishes their preparations so that our delegation can travel [to Qatar],” Sediqqi said.

In an interview published on September 6, Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the Afghan delegation would go to Doha after all logistical issues are sorted, including who should be given time to speak and how flags should be arranged during the opening ceremony of the talks.

Prisoner Release

Another issue was the release of six remaining Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan.

In a deal struck with the Taliban last week, the inmates will be transferred to Qatar, where they will be under house arrest, Saleh said.

An Afghan government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the six had been transferred to Doha on September 7.

Earlier, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militant group was waiting for the six prisoners to be released but said technical teams from both sides were working on the issue.

France and Australia had objected to the release of the men because of their links to the murders of French and Australian civilians and troops in Afghanistan.

The delayed intra-Afghan negotiations are part of a landmark deal signed between the United States and the Taliban in February.

Under the U.S.-Taliban agreement, international forces should withdraw from Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which pledged to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and power-sharing deal with the Afghan government.

The deal promised 5,000 Taliban prisoners would be set free by the Afghan government ahead of the negotiations, in return for 1,000 members of the security forces held by the militants.

The last Taliban prisoners, except the six being sent to Qatar, were released last week.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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