KABUL (Reuters) – Afghan politicians met with representatives of the Taliban insurgents in Qatar on Saturday and each side called for peace, even as fighting intensifies and uproots thousands of people.
Two decades of conflict have worsened as US-led international forces withdraw and the Taliban launch offensives around Afghanistan, seizing districts and border crossings as they encircle provincial capitals.
Negotiators have been meeting in Doha since September, but failed to make substantial progress and time ran out before the full departure of foreign troops by September 11.
“Let us take … important steps to continue the peace process, to prevent the killing of people,” said Abdullah Abdullah, head of the government’s Higher Council for National Reconciliation, at the beginning of the new high-level talks that are expected to take place. last two years. days.
“Because we cannot pay the price in blood and we cannot shirk our responsibility,” Abdullah said.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, vice president and negotiator for the Taliban, lamented the lack of progress. “But there is still hope and the Taliban will make efforts to see that the talks have a positive outcome,” he said.
In the latest impact of the fighting, around 12,000 families in the northern province of Takhar have had to flee their homes as the fighting continued, local authorities said.
Many gathered at a school in the provincial capital with few supplies. “They didn’t help us or give us a rug. Not even a dog can live here,” Mohammad Amin, one of those who had fled, told Reuters.
Heavy fighting has taken place in southern Kandahar province and the Taliban seized Spin Boldak, an area on the border with Pakistan earlier this week, though the Afghan government said on Friday it had regained control of the border crossing.
Reuters journalist Siddiqui from Denmark was killed on Friday while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters in the area.
Officials on the Pakistani side of the border said the crossing was opened on Saturday, allowing hundreds of Afghans stranded in Pakistan to return during the fighting.
More than 2,000 people were displaced in Kandahar this month, according to the United Nations humanitarian agency, and the Kandahar provincial governor declared a curfew in Kandahar city late Friday due to the fighting.
The UN refugee agency estimates that 270,000 Afghans have been displaced within the country since January, bringing the number of people forced from their homes to more than 3.5 million.
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