DOHA, Qatar — When the Taliban met Sunday for the primary time with Afghan officers, the delegates they confronted fashioned a shifting tableau of a brand new Afghanistan that has taken form because the motion was toppled 18 years in the past.
Bloodshed and progress in these years have gone hand in hand, and lots of the representatives on the desk — from all sides — got here with tales of non-public loss and grievance. The dialogue in Qatar, which continues on Monday, is the first in which Afghan government officials have participated and goals to interrupt the ice for direct negotiations on Afghanistan’s political future after an anticipated United States army withdrawal.
“It is important to give all sides the opportunity to see how things have changed over the past 18 years,” stated Sultan Barakat, the director of the Doha institute that organized the occasion with a German basis. “Eighteen years is not a short time, but war tends to trap people into imperceptions.”
When in energy, the Taliban didn’t enable girls to work or go to highschool. However in the principle session on Sunday, at meals and through tea breaks, senior Taliban officers mingled respectfully with feminine delegates, like the primary feminine governor, main a province that had endured a grotesque Taliban bloodbath in 2001, and a health care provider who represents the Sikh minority as a senator.
And in the event that they occurred to listen to a child crying, it was the deputy nationwide safety adviser’s 2-month-old boy. As she took her seat throughout from the Taliban, her husband, additionally a younger senior official, got here alongside to lull the kid to sleep on the margins of the classes.
When social media mistakenly included the infant’s identify on a listing of convention members, perhaps it was solely becoming: Of all of the attendees, his future stakes could be the very best.
Information of one other spherical of Afghan carnage — and youngsters caught in an assault — got here because the delegates filed into the ballroom within the sprawling Sheraton resort in Doha. The Taliban claimed accountability for an enormous truck bombing in Ghazni metropolis on Sunday that killed eight safety officers and 4 civilians. About 170 others have been wounded, together with 50 schoolchildren, the United Nations stated.
On the Taliban aspect of talks in Qatar, a number of of the delegates spent more than a decade detained on the American jail in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Their deputy leader answerable for the peace efforts, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who didn’t attend Sunday, endured practically 10 years of Pakistani imprisonment that broken his well being.
The militants have tales of relations and associates misplaced to raids and bombings by American and Afghan forces. They usually consider so staunchly of their combat in opposition to what they see as a international occupation that even the son of their newest supreme chief, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada, is believed to have carried out a suicide bombing.
Whereas the Afghan aspect largely sees the Taliban as a proxy pressure beneath the affect of neighboring Pakistan, the Taliban see the Afghan authorities as a puppet of the US.
To bridge the 2 visions of actuality is a basic however immense job. And whereas lengthy overdue, the peace course of — thought of key to the withdrawal of the remaining 14,000 American troops — instantly appears to be shifting shortly.
Most of Sunday’s classes came about behind closed doorways. However on the finish of the day members described the environment as respectful, even when the exchanges at occasions grew tense.
Members of the Afghan delegation stated that they had seen extra assurances from the Taliban that they’d respect girls’s proper to work and to an training. Taliban officers engaged in discussions on points, somewhat than studying from ready statements as they did at earlier conferences.
Nader Nadery, the chairman of the Afghan civil service fee, introduced up the morning’s lethal assault in Ghazni. Whereas he talked about his personal torture beneath the Taliban, he additionally acknowledged the struggling of the Taliban officers throughout from him throughout their years of detention.
“I have the courage to forgive, as I know your members have suffered, too,” Mr. Nadery stated he advised the gathering.
Mullah Abdul Salam Hanafi, a member of the Taliban delegation, accused the Afghan aspect of being selective when talking of civilian casualties. He stated Afghan officers and media performed down the civilian toll induced in rural areas by Afghan and American operations.
“The pain from all sides, whether it is the night raids or the bombings, that is why we are here,” Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban delegation, stated in an interview. “All sides have pain. The end of that pain is in ending the occupation.”
Abdul Matin Bek, an Afghan cupboard member attending the talks, is aware of that ache firsthand. His father, a member of Parliament, was killed within the suicide bombing of a funeral in 2011.
Mr. Bek stated his travels across the nation had proven that Afghans demand an finish to the warfare. He hoped the present dialogue would result in direct negotiations to attain that.
“It is not easy for me to sit across from people who have killed my father,” he stated. “But we have to end this.”