Massive Afghanistan peace summit ends in Kabul

"Every day, Afghans are being killed without any reason. An unconditional ceasefire must be announced," said Mohammad Qureshi, head of one of the jirga's many committees.
Massive Afghanistan peace summit ends in Kabul

A huge peace meeting aimed at finding an exit from Afghanistan's war is due to finish Friday in Kabul, with leading politicians expected to announce visions for a much-needed breakthrough.

This week's "loya jirga", or grand assembly, sawabout 3,200 religious and tribal leaders, politicians and representativesgather under tight security to try to find common ground and discuss possibleconditions for a peace deal with the Taliban.

On Thursday, several officials said a vital first step is animmediate reduction in violence, which has continued apace across Afghanistaneven with various peace summits taking place.

"Every day, Afghans are being killed without anyreason. An unconditional ceasefire must be announced," said MohammadQureshi, head of one of the jirga's many committees.

The jirga comes as the Taliban, who were not at the talks,are this week separately meeting in Doha with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Those talks focus on a potential deal that would see the withdrawalof foreign forces from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban guaranteeingterrorist groups could no longer operate in the country.

Huge swathes of Afghan society worry that if the US doesmake a deal with the Taliban, the militant Islamists would try to seize powerand undo advances in women's rights, media freedoms, and legal protections.

Such concerns were laid bare at the jirga, where hundreds ofwomen were in attendance outlining their "red lines" for anynegotiations with the Taliban.

"We don't want such a peace that women's rights are notrespected, freedom of expression are not ensured, elections are not held,"committee member Faizullah Jalal told the summit.

The jirga proved controversial, with opposition figuresslamming it as an election campaign event for President Ashraf Ghani, who isdue to deliver closing remarks.

Among those boycotting were Chief Executive AbdullahAbdullah and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious former warlord. Both men arerunning for president in elections slated for September.

Meanwhile, Afghanistan's war rages on, with thousands ofcivilians and fighters being killed each year.

US forces continue to train Afghan partners on the groundand strike the Taliban from the air, in a bid to push the war — now in its18th year — to a political settlement.

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