An Afghan government delegation is heading to Qatar for “open discussions” with representatives of the aimed at ending Afghanistan’s long war, officials have said.
The scheduled meeting would mark a significant step towards opening formal talks to ending the conflict, but it is unclear whether the insurgents’ supreme leader, Mullah Omar, has approved them.
Pakistan’s army chief told the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, in February that senior Taliban figures were open to direct talks with Kabul but until now there had been little sign of progress.
The 20-member Afghan delegation will attend preliminary talks scheduled for Sunday and Monday, said Attaullah Ludin, deputy chief of the High Peace Council.
“There will be representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Taliban and some other organisations,” he said on Friday.
Ludin added that council members would be meeting the Taliban as wells two representatives of Hizb-i-Islami, another militant group fighting the US-backed Afghan government that also has a political wing.
A senior Taliban official in confirmed that a meeting was set for the next few days and that Hizb-i-Islami would participate. “It’s top secret so far,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.