(AA) – Warring Taliban and Afghan government officials are preparing to meet in the capital of Qatar on Sunday in a bid to relaunch efforts to open talks aimed at ending more than a decade of bloody conflict which began with the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, officials and Afghan media have said.
Attaullah Ludin, the deputy chief of Afghanistan High Peace Council, told local media on Saturday that Afghan officials, whose names have not yet been disclosed, will meet Taliban leaders in Doha on Sunday and Monday.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed an eight-member Taliban delegation will attend the event, which is being organized by international peace initiators Pugwash.
A 20-member Afghan delegation left for Doha on Saturday, officials said.
The talks are seen as a follow-on from a reported meeting held between the two sides in Beijing in February, hosted by the Chinese government.
Representatives from neighboring Pakistan and organizations including the Hizb-e-Islami group will also participate in the much-publicized talks which have raised expectations for peace with approval come from Islamabad in February.
Unlike former President Hamid Karzai, incumbent Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has attempted to forge good relations with Islamabad and persuade Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership to support the reconciliation process which also has US backing.
Analysts believe Islamabad has changed its traditional stance towards the Afghan branch of the Taliban following brutal killing of more than 140 people, mostly students, in a gun-and-bomb attack on an army-run school in Peshawar last December.
U.S. President Barack Obama has officially declared the U.S.’ Afghan mission over at the end of last year, however, U.S. forces regularly carry out aerial strikes against the Taliban who last week kicked off their annual Spring Offensive, vowing to target U.S. and Afghan forces.