Intra-Afghan talks will be easier than US discussions: Taliban

As per the terms in the US-Taliban deal, the Afghan government and the Taliban are expected to attend the intra-Afghan negotiations on March 10

Some members of the Taliban's negotiating team have said that the intra-Afghan talks with the Kabul government will be easier for them than their 18-months of discussions with the US which concluded with the signing of the landmark peace deal.

The Afghan government and the Taliban are expected to attend the intra-Afghan negotiations on March 10, according to terms in the US-Taliban deal, which says up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners should be released from the government's custody by the same date, TOLO News said in a report on Sunday.

Positive signs of an agreement

Amir Khan Motaqi, a Taliban negotiator, said he was almost sure that an agreement will be achieved by the intra-Afghan talks. "We will reach a conclusion with Afghans in a better way - of course with Afghans who consider other Afghans' interests and do not consider foreigners' interests," Mottaqi said.

Another senior member of the group, Anas Haqqani, who was released from Bagram prison last November, called the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners important but criticized "uncertainty" around the formation of the negotiating team from Kabul.

"They (the government in Kabul) expressed their opposition to peace and about the prisoners' release and now the people of Afghanistan should judge for themselves," Haqqani said. The Presidential Palace has not provided details of the negotiating team.

US storm
American flags Reuters

President bats for a smaller delegation

But President Asharf Ghani last week suggested that the delegation should be limited in number and that it should be effective. On Saturday during the inauguration of the new year of the Afghan Parliament, Ghani reiterated that the team will be ready by March 10.

A Taliban commander for the north, Mullah Suleiman Bahir, insisted that this was an opportunity for peace. "We are happy about this decision. The enemy should make a good use of this opportunity," Bahir said.

Concerns among Afghani citizens

In Kabul however, there were concerns among Afghans about the fate of rights and achievement made over the last 19 years if the Taliban returns to Afghanistan as part of a peace deal. "The Taliban should not tamper with improvements on the freedom of speech and political activities... They should accept them," Tolo News quoted Faiz Mohammad Zaland, a university professor, as saying.

"The government's strongholds were in the people's houses, the Taliban's strongholds were in the people's houses, and the Americans were bombarding the people's houses. It will be good if they give importance to people's say on controlling the war," said Nazar Mohammad Motmaen, a political analyst.