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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Afghanistan's president says a roadmap for peace negotiations has been formed

Ashraf Ghani announced a 12 person negotiating team led by his chief of staff

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a UN debate on performance of his country's private sector during the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan on November 27. AFP
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a UN debate on performance of his country's private sector during the Geneva Conference on Afghanistan on November 27. AFP

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani announced on Tuesday that a roadmap for peace negotiations between the country and the Taliban has been formed.

Speaking at a conference in Geneva, Mr Ghani said peace negotiations set to take place next spring will aim for the Taliban to take part in a "democratic and inclusive society" which ensures women's rights.

Mr Ghani said he has formed a 12-person negotiation team led by his chief of staff that will oversee the peace process which, he added, will take a minimum of five years to conclude.

The Taliban engaged in peace talks with US officials last month, but have yet to come to an agreement. The second Taliban-US meeting in as many months come as the militants step up attacks on beleaguered Afghan security forces, which are suffering an unprecedented level of casualties.

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The death toll among Afghan soldiers and police is nearing 30,000 since the start of 2015, Mr Ghani revealed – a figure far higher than anything previously acknowledged.

The recent surge in violence has also led to an increase in civilian deaths, most recently in Kabul where a suicide bomber killed more than 50 and injured 83. No one claimed responsibility, but the Taliban and ISIS fighters have targeted religious scholars aligned with the Afghan government in the past.

On Tuesday three US servicemen were killed by a roadside improvised explosive device in Ghazni, the Nato-led Operation Resolute Support said in a statement.

Presidential elections are due to take place in April, but last week it was announced they may be delayed until June.

In a recent report, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) cited the Nato mission in Kabul as saying this summer's toll had been worse than ever for Afghan forces.

Mr Khalilzad told reporters on Sunday that he recognised the "complexity" of the conflict, but insisted he wanted to "make as much progress as possible as soon as possible".