US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the impending “historic” talks while himself on his way to Doha for the inauguration event
A team representing the Afghan government flew out for Doha on Friday afternoon ahead of long-awaited peace negotiations with the insurgent Taliban scheduled to begin on Saturday, Afghan officials said.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the impending "historic" talks while himself on his way to Doha for the inauguration event.
The Trump administration has been attempting to usher the Taliban and Afghan government towards negotiations, which would pave the way for the United States to finally withdraw from its longest war and hand President Donald Trump an important foreign policy success right before the US presidential election.
"Today, we depart to Doha with hopes and self confidence to create a condition in Afghanistan where guns are silent and the values of (the) republic are consolidated and Afghan people achieve what they deserve," said senior negotiator Nader Nadery, part of the team that left Kabul on a commercial airliner.
Pompeo is also scheduled to arrive in Doha on Friday, ahead of Saturday's opening ceremony, following which the actual talks are expected to begin between the Afghan government representatives and the Taliban, as envisaged in a February agreement between the militant group the US
"It's taken us longer than I wish that it had to get from February 29 to here but we expect Saturday morning...to have the Afghans sitting at the table together prepared to have what will be contentious discussions about how to move their country forward," Pompeo told reporters shortly after taking off from Washington on Thursday evening. "(It's) truly historic."
The Taliban had hitherto refused to have direct talks with a government that the group says is powerless.
Pompeo's arrival in Doha on Friday would coincide with the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States that triggered US military involvement in Afghanistan against the Taliban, who harboured Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda militant leader who plotted the attacks.
A diplomatic source in Kabul said that the start of talks had been arranged to ensure it did not fall on the anniversary.
A jet had picked up six prisoners demanded by the Taliban from Kabul on Thursday. Some Western governments had objected to their release, and as a compromise it was agreed that they would be kept under supervision in Qatar.
France and Australia said overnight that they objected to the prisoners being released from Afghan prisons.