Peace Talks Between Afghan Officials and the Taliban Postponed Indefinitely

A last-minute cancellation caught Afghan President Ashraf Ghani by surprise.
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Afghan security forces gather in mid-January at the site of a powerful truck bomb attack, claimed by the Taliban, which killed four and wounded over 100.

Afghan security forces gather in mid-January at the site of a powerful truck bomb attack, claimed by the Taliban, which killed four and wounded over 100.

KABUL, Afghanistan — On Saturday, a delegation of 250 Afghan officials from across the country were supposed to arrive in Doha, Qatar, for a round of peace talks with the Taliban, following recent discussions between United States representatives and the insurgency group. After weeks of confusion and reports of last-minute scrambling, the talks have been postponed indefinitely, reportedly due to the Qatari government and the Taliban disagreeing with the composition of the Afghan delegation.

The director of the Doha Institute where the talks were to be held, Sultan Barakat, said the delegation list was changed and ultimately canceled because it was, "necessary to further build consensus as to who should participate in the conference."

Members of the delegation were informed Thursday morning—when they expected to board flights to Doha—that the list had been changed overnight by the Qatari government. The new list, leaked to Afghan media on Thursday, was made up of new figures, and was declared unacceptable by the Afghan government.

The cancellation apparently caught Afghan President Ashraf Ghani by surprise. According to a response from his office, "after preparations for delegation's travel were complete, to our surprise last night we received a new list from Qatar that did not reflect people's representation."

The head representative of the U.S. at the peace talks, Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, expressed his disappointment over the cancellation on Twitter Thursday afternoon. The spokesperson for American forces in Afghanistan declined to comment after being reached by email and Twitter.

Complicating the newest round of Doha talks are the recently announced spring offensives by Afghan government forces and the Taliban against each other, as well as an upcoming Afghan presidential election. Some of Afghanistan's most powerful political figures—including former president Hamid Karzai and a powerful provincial governor at odds with the Kabul-based government, Atta Noor—declined to join the delegation so as not to appear to support the current Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani. It remains to be seen whether a revised delegation will be formed or what the next phase of the talks will be.

In the meantime, fighting continues across the country.

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