Afghanistan: The road to peace talks

AFP , Saturday 12 Sep 2020

Afghani Peace Talks
Abdullah Abdullah (C), Chairman of Afghanistan's High Council for National Reconciliation, speaks with members of delegations at the end of the session during the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in the Qatari capital Doha on September 12, 2020. (AFP)

A recap of key dates since the deal between the US and the Taliban in February 2020, paving the way for peace talks with Afghanistan's government in Kabul.


Historic deal

On February 29, 2020 the US and the Taliban sign an agreement in Doha in which all foreign forces are supposed to quit Afghanistan by May 2021 provided the Taliban start talks with Kabul and adhere to other guarantees.

The talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government are due to start on March 10.

The deal requires the Afghan government -- not a signatory to the accord -- to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners, and for the insurgents to release 1,000 pro-government captives in return.

The Taliban make the release of prisoners a precondition for any future discussions.


Political crisis

On March 9, Afghanistan plunges into crisis after head of state Ashraf Ghani and his rival and former minister Abdullah Abdullah both declare themselves winners in the presidential election.

Ghani and Abdullah sign a power-sharing deal on May 17, ending their bitter months-long feud. Abdullah takes the role of leading the peace negotiations.


US retreat

On March 10 the US army begins pulling out troops from two bases -- in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in the south, which is considered a Taliban stronghold, and another base in Herat in the west.


First meeting

On March 31 and April 1, a Taliban delegation meets government officials in Kabul to discuss the prisoner exchange after the administration drags their feet starting the process.


Prisoner swap

On April 8 Kabul begins to release the Taliban prisoners.

Four days later the insurgents begin their own release of Afghan security force captives.


Surprise ceasefire

On May 23, in a surprise move, the Taliban announce a three-day ceasefire during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of Ramadan.

It is only the second ceasefire since the US-led international coalition ousted them from power in 2001.

As a sign of encouragement, Afghan authorities release some 900 Taliban prisoners.

On July 28 the Taliban announce another three-day ceasefire.

Hundreds of Taliban prisoners are subsequently released.


'Loya jirga'

On August 9, a "loya jirga" -- a traditional Afghan meeting of tribal elders and other stakeholders -- agrees the release of about 400 controversial militant prisoners, including some tied to the killings of Western troops.


Peace talks

On September 3 Kabul and the Taliban announce the prisoner swap is nearly complete.

Peace negotiations are cleared to begin after the fate of a final six militants is resolved on September 10.

On September 11 Afghan government negotiators leave for Doha to hold peace talks with the Taliban on Saturday.

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