Afghan Govt names team for Taliban talks

KABUL: The Afghan government has finalised a 21-member team — including five women — who will negotiate with the Taliban in upcoming talks aimed at ending Afghanistan s 18-year-old conflict, officials said Friday.
The move is a crucial step in bringing the warring parties to the table and getting a floundering, US-led peace process back on track.
Under a deal signed by the US and the Taliban last month, the insurgents agreed to commit to starting talks with the Afghan government and discuss a possible ceasefire. Up until now, the Taliban has refused to meet with the administration of President Ashraf Ghani, calling him an American stooge.
In return for starting talks and other commitments, the US and foreign partner forces will withdraw from Afghanistan over the next 14 months.
The negotiating team was supposed to be unveiled weeks ago, with the “intra-Afghan” talks with the Taliban meant to get underway March 10 in Oslo.
But Kabul has been gripped by a fresh political crisis, with Ghani s legitimacy being challenged by his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has also proclaimed himself president.
While there was no immediate indication of whether Abdullah supports the team’s composition, it includes Batur Dostum whose father Abdul Rashid Dostum a notorious former warlord is a staunch Abdullah ally.