DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Afghanistan’s warring sides began negotiations on Saturday for the primary time aimed toward ending a long time of conflict, bringing collectively delegates appointed by the Afghan authorities and the Taliban.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the opening ceremony, which was held in Qatar the place the conferences will happen. It is the most recent in a flurry of diplomatic exercise by the Trump administration forward of the U.S. presidential election in November.

The discussions are essential within the seek for lasting peace that may even present an exit for U.S. and NATO troops after practically 19 years.

The edges will attempt to sort out powerful points. This consists of the phrases of a everlasting cease-fire, the rights of ladies and minorities and the disarming of tens of 1000’s of Taliban fighters and militias loyal to warlords, a few of them aligned with the federal government.

The talks in Doha observe the U.S.-brokered recognition of Israel by two Gulf nations — Bahrain on Friday and the United Arab Emirates earlier this month.

The Afghan sides are additionally anticipated to debate constitutional adjustments, and energy sharing.

Even seemingly mundane points just like the flag and the identify of the nation __ the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan or because the Taliban’s administration had been identified, when it dominated, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan __ may discover their means on to the negotiation desk and roil tempers.

Among the many government-appointed negotiators are 4 ladies, who vow to protect ladies’s rights in any power-sharing cope with the fundamentalist Taliban. This consists of the proper to work, schooling and participation in political life __ all denied ladies when the Taliban dominated Afghanistan for 5 years. The Taliban have been ousted in 2001 by a U.S.-led coalition for harboring Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 terrorist assaults on America.

There aren’t any ladies on the Taliban’s negotiation group, led by their chief justice Abdul Hakim.

Pompeo has mentioned he anticipated the discussions to be contentious.

Washington’s peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad mentioned Friday that launching the talks is a vital achievement, however that “there are difficulties, important challenges on the way in which to reaching settlement.”

“This can be a take a look at for either side, for the Taliban and the federal government,” he mentioned. “Can they attain an settlement regardless of variations, when it comes to their visions for the way forward for Afghanistan? ”

The intra-Afghan negotiations have been specified by a peace deal Washington signed with the Taliban on Feb. 29. At the moment the deal was touted as Afghanistan’s finest probability at peace in 40 years of conflict.

The talks have been initially anticipated to start inside weeks of the Feb. 29 signing.

However delays disrupted the timeline from the outset. The Afghan authorities balked at releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners, which was stipulated within the deal as an indication of fine religion forward of the negotiations. The Taliban have been required to launch 1,000 authorities and navy personnel of their custody.

Political turmoil in Kabul additional delayed talks as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his rival in controversial presidential polls the 12 months earlier than, Abdullah Abdullah, squabbled over who received, with each declaring victory.

Abdullah was named to go the Excessive Council for Nationwide Reconciliation overseeing the peace talks as a part of a power-sharing settlement to finish the bickering.

The Taliban’s refusal to scale back the violence additional hindered the beginning of talks.

Whereas Washington ramped up strain to get the intra-Afghan negotiations began, the deal they signed with the Taliban to withdraw fully from Afghanistan doesn’t hinge on the success of the talks.

Washington’s withdrawal is contingent on the Taliban honoring commitments to struggle terrorist teams, specifically the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, and be certain that Afghanistan can’t once more be used to assault America or its allies.

Washington has refused to present particular of the ensures citing safety causes, however the withdrawal of U.S. troops has already begun. President Donald Trump has mentioned that by November, about 4,000 troopers shall be in Afghanistan, down from 13,000 when the deal was signed in February.

“Washington’s objectives are quite simple: It desires intra-Afghan talks taking place as quickly as potential, as a result of these give the White Home political cowl for an imminent withdrawal,” mentioned Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Washington-based Wilson Middle’s Asia program.

“Trump doubtless desires a peace deal earlier than the election, in order that he can garner political advantages galore and pitch himself as a Nobel Peace Prize candidate. However presumably even he realizes it’s wildly unrealistic to count on a deal so quickly. Most of these negotiations are usually measured in years, not weeks.”


Gannon reported from Islamabad