The United Nations and Qatar participated in the US-backed effort to kickstart talks for troops withdrawal from Afghanistan before May 1.
The Afghan government and the Taliban will take part in the peace talks in Istanbul from April 24 to May 4 to launch a peace process and outline a possible political solution, host Turkey said.
The 10-day summit will also include the United Nations and Qatar as part of a US-backed push for jump-start talks stalled in Doha ahead of May 1 for the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
“The overarching goal of the Istanbul Conference on the Afghan Peace Process is to accelerate and supplement the ongoing intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha on the achievement of a just and lasting political solution,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“The conference will focus on helping the negotiating parties achieve a set of common core principles that reflect an agreed vision for a future Afghanistan, a roadmap for a future political solution and an end to the conflict,” it said.
“Participation in the conference and its agenda has been the subject of extensive consultations with the Afghan parties.”
On Monday, the Taliban announced that, due to lack of time, they were not ready to take part in the talks in Turkey originally planned for April 16.
A leaked State Department report said Washington wants the Turkish conference to approve a plan to replace the current leadership of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with a transitional government that includes the Taliban.
US envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, has toured the region to rally support for a ceasefire and peace settlement, which could include a transitional government.
Afghan official sources said last week that Ghani intends to come up with a three-stage plan at the Istanbul talks.
The first step is to reach a political agreement with the Taliban and announce an internationally monitored ceasefire.
He then proposed holding early presidential elections, in which the Taliban could participate, in order to form a “peace government”.
This would lead to a number of development programs across the war-torn country and work on a new constitutional framework.
The Afghanistan High Council for National Reconciliation, a separate negotiating body established in 2010, is expected to come up with its own proposals after consulting various political parties and members of civil society.
September 11th withdrawal?
Officials fear that if an agreement is not reached soon, violence in the country will increase.
The Taliban have already warned that there would be “consequences” if Washington does not withdraw its troops by May 1 – a goal US President Joe Biden describes as “tough”.
Biden has decided to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021, 20 years after the day the al-Qaeda attacks sparked America’s longest war, a senior government official told reporters.
However, the withdrawal would be based on certain security and human rights guarantees, Reuters news agency sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity before formalizing the decision.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are expected to inform NATO allies of the decision in Brussels on Wednesday. Biden can also publicly announce his decision, the sources said.
Biden’s decision, if confirmed, would miss the May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed by the administration of his predecessor Donald Trump.
But it would still set a short-term date of withdrawal, which could potentially allay Taliban’s concerns that Biden would delay the trial.