A delegation of Afghan leaders, including Hikmat Khalil Karzai, the political deputy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), and Haji Din Mohammad, a powerful tribal leader and the former Governor of Nangarhar province, have traveled to Islamabad in order to commence peace talks with the Taliban.
A source close to the matter has told TOLOnews on condition of anonymity that the talks started on Tuesday and that the Afghan government delegation’s first priority is negotiating a ceasefire.
News of the talks in Islamabad came suddenly, after months of speculations and false-starts, including a preliminary sit-down in Oslo, Norway, last month.
Marking the first official meeting between Afghan government officials and the Taliban in Pakistan, the talks this week were said to be set in motion once the national unity government had decided on who to send as a representative delegation.
In addition to Hikmat Khalil Karzai and Haji Din Mohammad, other top national unity government advisors are also said to be involved in the talks. “Faizullah Zaki has attended the talks for the First Vice President after consultation with national unity government leaders,” Junbish-e Milli Party spokesman Bashir Ahmad Tayanj told TOLOnews Tuesday.
On the Taliban’s side of the aisle, a source close to the First Vice President has said Mullah Abbas and a number of other members of the group are expected to attend the talks. “Maulvi Abbas is the negotiator for the Taliban,” Tayanj also confirmed.
The abruptness of the announcement of talks has raised questions about the government’s transparency about the process and its ability to manage it more broadly. “The fact that people are not aware of the talks is because the government is not sure about the results of the talks,” Tayanj said.
Although the Foreign Affairs Ministry and High Peace Council have refrained from sharing an details about the talks, members of the national unity government have confirmed that a delegation has traveled to Islamabad to meet with Taliban leaders.
Despite the fact that Afghan government officials and Taliban leaders meeting to talk peace in Pakistan is an undeniably landmark event, independently analysts have voiced their doubts about the potential outcome of such talks, so long as Pakistan has a hand in them.
“I am not optimistic about the results of the talks,” university lecturer Nasrullah Stanikzai told TOLOnews. “These talks will prove fruitful when they are held between Afghans, because Pakistan will seek its benefits whenever it wants to be involved in talks.”
Pakistani officials were in fact the first to spread the news that potential talks between the Afghan government and Taliban were on the horizon.