A string of assassinations has sowed fear and chaos across Afghanistan as a fresh round of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban begin in Qatar on Tuesday.
Months of deliberations between the two sides have yielded little so far, but both parties made a breakthrough last year when they finally agreed at least on what to discuss in the next round.
Afghan government negotiators will push for a permanent ceasefire and to protect the existing system of governance, in place since the ouster of the Taliban in 2001 by a US-led invasion in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
“The talks are going to be very complicated and time-consuming,” Ghulam Farooq Majroh, a government negotiator said.
A government official says the negotiations will be time-consuming and very complicated
“But we are hopeful to arrive at a result as soon as possible as people are tired of this bloody war.”
The Taliban did not offer any comment.
The first direct talks between the warring sides opened in September after months of delays, but quickly became bogged down by disputes on the basic framework of discussions and religious interpretations.
A concerted diplomatic effort from Washington finally led to a consensus.
The negotiations follow a landmark troop withdrawal deal signed in February by the Taliban and Washington, which saw the US pledge to pull out all foreign forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.
The talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban have been marred by an increase in violence from the start, but a new trend is a wave of high-profile targeted killings of officials, activists, and journalists.
The deputy governor for Kabul province, five journalists, and a prominent election activist have been among those assassinated in Kabul and other cities since November.