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September 22, 2020

Deep divisions as Afghan negotiators get down to details

World

September 22, 2020

KABUL: The Afghan government and Taliban remain far apart on even the most basic issues a week into talks meant to end two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands of people.

The chasm, not just on the predictably thorny problem of a ceasefire but on foundational issues, suggests major hurdles to any hopes of binding the wounds of a ravaged country. With all foreign troops due to be gone by May next year, pressure is building on the US-backed government as it grapples with how it can share power with its implacable foe or contend with a likely Taliban push for military victory. President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman questioned what he said was the Taliban insistence on settling the issue of the Islamic system so early in the talks. “This doesn’t resonate well with our people’s wish for a lasting peace and the current political system of Afghanistan which is an Islamic Republic state and has legitimacy,” said the spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi.

One of the diplomats trying to shepherd the talks said the focus was for now on keeping the negotiators at the table, talking over tea in the Gulf capital, 2,000 km (1,200 miles) from their war-scarred home. “They’re carving up their playing field, the challenge for us is to make sure that no one leaves the field,” said the diplomat. “We are talking to a side that is difficult and inflexible and therefore things are not moving forward,” said a senior negotiator on the Afghan government side.