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Taliban Lauds UN-Led Talks on Afghanistan, Excludes Women

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The recent UN-led talks on Afghanistan concluded in Doha, marking the first instance of Taliban authorities’ involvement in discussions that excluded women’s representation. The decision to exclude civil society groups from the main meetings was heavily criticized by rights organizations, with many deeming it a compromise to encourage the Taliban government’s participation. This exclusion of women from such crucial discussions has sparked urgent concerns about the future of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid expressed gratitude toward the foreign officials, citing a “spirit of cooperation” and positive policy changes towards Afghanistan. He stated that these talks mark Afghanistan’s emergence from isolation and the creation of an atmosphere of trust. This comes as the third round of talks since the Taliban regained power in 2021. It’s worth noting that the group refused to attend the second round of talks without the exclusion of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, showcasing their significant influence in the negotiations.

Despite the international community grappling with its stance on the Taliban’s government, the Taliban spokesman emphasized that Afghanistan’s internal issues, especially those related to women and people, should not be used for political leverage by other nations. This stance adds a layer of complexity to the situation, making it more challenging for the international community to navigate their relationship with the Taliban.

The recent Doha talks primarily focused on strengthening Afghanistan’s private sector and supporting counter-narcotics efforts in a country historically known for its opium production. While the UN was criticized for not including civil society organizations, including women’s rights groups, in the official talks, European Union’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Tomas Niklasson, defended the decision, stating that concessions made to the Taliban authorities led to constructive discussions with all parties involved.

In a separate matter, Mujahid mentioned that discussions on a potential prisoner exchange with the United States had taken place during talks in Qatar. He indicated that two American citizens are being held in Afghanistan, while Afghan prisoners, including those in Guantanamo Bay, are held in the US. This development comes amid ongoing concerns about the well-being of detainees, including an American woman detained by Taliban authorities and aid worker Ryan Corbett, whose health is deteriorating while in custody since 2022.

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