Dozens of Afghan delegates, including political figures, women, and other stakeholders, are attending an Intra-Afghan Dialogue Conference in Qatar involving negotiators from the Taliban.
Just hours before the gathering began in Doha on July 7, the militant group claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the Afghan city of Ghazni that killed at least six people and wounded more than 150 others.
The attack in Ghazni on the morning of July 7 targeted a security services compound but many of the victims were students from a nearby school, Afghan officials said.
Ahead of the conference, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Afghanistan’s ToloTV that the participants “will share their personal views on how to achieve peace in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban has said it was sending 17 representatives to the conference, while the Afghan government is excluded from the gathering.
The conference is taking place amid separate talks, also in Doha, between the U.S. and Taliban officials seeking to end the Afghan war.
The U.S. envoy helping to broker peace talks with the Taliban said that the current round of negotiations have been the “most productive” so far.
Zalmay Khalilzad made the comments while attending the seventh round of negotiations with representatives of the extremist group in Qatar.
The United States is seeking to draw the Taliban into direct talks with the government in Kabul. The extremist group has so far refused to talk to the Afghan government, calling it a puppet of the West.
U.S. officials have said they seek an agreement on a cease-fire and on full talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government before any peace deal is finalized.
Washington is looking to seal a deal with the Taliban ahead of the upcoming Afghan presidential election scheduled for September to allow the withdrawal of foreign forces to begin.
Khalilzad on July 6 said the latest round of U.S.-Taliban talks have been the most productive of the rounds we’ve had with the Talibs.”
Those talks have been put on hold until July 9 to allow for the two-day Afghan conference, both sides said.
Taliban negotiators asserted that those attending are only doing so in a “personal capacity” and that the government of President Ashraf Ghani has been excluded.
The United States will not participate directly in the summit, which has been organized by Qatar and Germany.
Similar summits were held in Moscow in February and May.
Despite the talk of peace, violence has continued to cost dozens of lives in Afghanistan.
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