The Taliban militant group in Afghanistan has refused to enter into peace talks with the Afghan government, rejecting Kabul’s negotiating team as “not inclusive.”
The Taliban claimed in a statement on Saturday that the Afghan government had failed to organize an “inclusive” team and said, “In order to reach true and lasting peace, the aforementioned team must be agreed upon by all effective Afghan sides.”
It was unclear what side the militant group believed had been excluded from deliberations on the government’s team.
On Saturday, the government in Kabul introduced 21 negotiators, including five women, to participate in “intra-Afghan” talks aimed at ending the conflict in the country.
The team is headed by Masoom Stanekzai, a former Afghan security chief and supporter of President Ashraf Ghani, and includes politicians, former officials, and representatives of Afghanistan’s civil society.
Kabul dismissed the Taliban’s stance as unjustified and said the negotiating team had been made after months of extensive consultations among various factions in the country.
The Taliban militants had been refusing to recognize the Afghan government until they reached a deal with the United States on February 29 under which they agreed, among other things, to sit down for peace talks with the Afghan government.
The Afghan government was a party neither to the negotiations nor to the deal, but it has been acting in accordance with its terms, including by agreeing to free Taliban prisoners.
But the militants have not stopped attacking government targets and civilians in Afghanistan.
The deal envisages a complete withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The US and its allies invaded the Asian country to topple a Taliban regime in 2001, accusing it of harboring the al-Qaeda terrorist group. The militants now control or hold influence over more Afghan territory than at any point since that time and have carried out near-daily attacks against US-led foreign forces and Afghan military outposts throughout the war-ravaged country.
Over 100,000 Afghans have been killed or injured since 2009, when the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting casualties.
The Daesh terrorist group has also emerged in the Asian country more recently.