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Donald Trump is pushing the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, to close a Taliban mission in Qatar, which has been a channel for dialogue for more than six years, according to several sources familiar with discussions between the two countries.
Saudi Arabia suspends dialogue, saying Qatar 'distorting facts'
Read more Ghani is expected to agree to the closure, but a final decision has not yet been reached. The issue was raised at a meeting between the two leaders on Thursday.
The Afghan leadership sees the 36-strong informal delegation in Doha – which the Taliban calls its ‘political office’ – as doing nothing to facilitate peace talks, merely conferring political legitimacy on a group Kabul views as no more than a tool of Pakistan.
Trump is said to be hostile to the maintenance of the Taliban office for several reasons. He portrays it as a failed initiative of his predecessor that had not led to the peace negotiations Barack Obama had hoped for. Meanwhile, the Saudi and Emirati monarchies have been pressuring for its closure since its inception, seeing it as a symbol of Doha’s diplomatic prestige and US-Qatari ties.
Advertisement A request to close the office would have to be formally initiated by Kabul, but the ultimate decision would lie with the Qatari government.
According to one source close to the diplomatic exchanges, the office has become collateral damage of the continuing Saudi-Qatari standoff. Saudi Arabia and three other countries - Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates – have been locked in a dispute with Qatar since June because of claims that Qatar supports Iran and Islamists and funds terrorism. Qatar has denied the claims.
Trump has offered to mediate in that dispute while indicating strongly he shared Riyadh’s view of the dispute. The US president is believed to have raised the issue of the Taliban office at a meeting last Tuesday with the emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.
In February, Ghani told the Qatari foreign minister during a security conference in Munich that the Taliban office should be closed.
It is not known whether Tamim agreed to close the office, but he is eager to cultivate support from Washington at a time when his country has been subjected to a crippling economic blockade by hostile neighbours.
The Taliban’s political commission established a permanent presence in Doha in 2011, soon after making its first secret contacts with the US in Germany. It became the point of contact for Taliban diplomacy from then on, though an attempt in 2013 to open a formal embassy collapsed in the face of fierce opposition from Kabul.
The Taliban were quickly forced to remove their flag and nameplate, but the compound has remained as an informal delegation in Doha for diplomatic contacts. Those contacts have not led to substantive peace talks, but have been a channel for humanitarian agreements aimed at reducing the toll the 16-year war has taken on civilians.
It was instrumental in a 2014 prisoner exchange in which the US transferred five Taliban members from Guantánamo Bay to Qatar, in return for a captured US army sergeant, Bowe Bergdahl.
“I am concerned that if the Taliban political commission is closed down in Doha, hardliners in the movement will exploit this to claim that the US is uninterested in peace. It will provide these hard-liners with the perfect excuse to stay out of peace talks and fight on,” said Michael Semple, an expert on the region and visiting research professor at Queen’s University Belfast.
“The main people who would benefit in the Afghan context would be the war mongers,” he added.
Semple said he had supported political engagement with the Taliban movement and that allowing a political delegation in Qatar was an “important gambit” – despite a lack of meaningful progress so far.
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Read more It is not clear whether the Taliban representatives in Doha would be expelled. They are likely to be arrested if sent to Pakistan, which has never supported the office, which was created in part as a way to bypass Islamabad to make direct contact with the US. But it appears Taliban would be prevented from holding political and diplomatic meetings there, a source told the Guardian.
The importance of the Doha office has waned since 2013, particularly since the head of the office, Tayeb Agha, resigned in 2015 amid rifts following the death of Mullah Omar, the movement’s founder.
Advertisement Agha, a young, former personal secretary to Omar, criticised the way Omar’s successor, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, had been selected.
The split between the political office and commanders have never healed, and most observers believe the Doha office holds limited sway over fighters in the battlefield.
But Doha holds symbolic importance as a possible channel for reopening peace talks, a process that has been stagnant for years.
In 2016, representatives of the office travelled to Pakistan to meet security officials, following secret meetings in Doha with Afghanistan’s spy chief and a senior US diplomat.
Even if mostly a symbolic move, shuttering what is perhaps the only permanent channel to the insurgency would show a lack of determination to make peace negotiations work, according to a Western diplomat in Kabul.
“Everybody thinks there is no military solution, but their actions suggest a desire to fight. All sides are guilty of this, especially the leadership of the Afghan government – the leaders who feel the least pain and enjoy the most profit from the conflict,” the diplomat said.
Trump to expand US military intervention in Afghanistan
Read more The diplomat said people on both sides were torn. On the Afghan side, Hanif Atmar, the national security adviser, was apparently in favour of shutting the office, while the head of the intelligence agency, Masoom Stanekzai, was more hesitant.
The presence of an official Taliban office in Qatar has always been a nuisance to the Afghan government, who worries that it allows other players to engage with the Taliban in a peace process, which Kabul insists must be owned and led by Afghans. For the Afghan government, closing the office could help prevent third countries from starting their own bilateral conversations with the Taliban, which have previously derailed the process.
This compilation videos contains all of PlayKids funny but educational social skills songs that will help your child understand social skills like telling the truth, sharing, keeping their hands to themselves, bullying, and more.
All songs teach in a funny and gentle way that will get kids excited about doing the right thing every day! Great for teachers in preschool who might want to reinforce the best behavior in their students too!
Worried about whether or not your preschooler has what it takes to be successful in kindergarten? Take a breath and relax. Learning shouldn't be a chore, especially at home. There are fun ways to build your child's academic skills without him even knowing the activity is educational. The best thing about preschoolers is that they're like sponges. They soak up everything they see and hear to be used at a later time when you least expect it.
Last week I was at Target with my three-year-old daughter when she pointed to the sign and informed me, "There are two 'T's' up there!" I almost fell over. Don't get me wrong, my child isn't a genius - sometimes she'll pick her toenails for five minutes before I finally distract her with a piece of candy! My point is that she learned the letter "T" because I started pointing it out on the name sign that hangs on her bedroom door. I've seen a big difference in my own daughter over the last six months with regard to letter recognition and numbers. This is the age to immerse them in learning activities. Don't get overwhelmed, I'm not asking you to create full lesson plans for your kids. When you're three-years-old, every outing or activity is a spontaneous opportunity to learn and increase awareness. Have fun with it and follow some of the tips below which I found at Rasmus Kreutzmann's company.
1. Don't baby-talk, baby! When your child wants to know why her paint won't cover up the white crayon marks on the paper, tell her in big girl words, "That's adhesion, honey!" She'll look at you and smile and won't understand, but sooner or later that word will come out again. When you give children an answer to something they want to know, they'll listen. I have found this does not work with the explanation of why you should eat peas, go figure.
2. Incorporate learning into the activity, don't make it the sole purpose. Any activity you do can be an opportunity to teach your child. If he's coloring a picture, ask him to choose 5 or 10 crayons and count them before he begins. Ask your child what color they are using while they are using it. Point out that one of the scribbles they made looks like a circle or square. The more they hear the vocabulary the more comfortable they will feel using it themselves.
3. Play games. My daughter loves finding the eggs that the Easter Bunny brings, so I took the idea a little further. I wrote down some letters on pieces of paper and put them in the eggs along with a small piece of candy. When she opened an egg she had to tell me the letter then got to eat the M M.; Some of them she didn't know, so I told her what it was and we thought of an animal that started with that letter. If you have a young child I suggest hiding no more than 5 eggs if you want to keep their attention.
4. Read, read, read! The more you read, the more your child will want to read. Reading stories to your child brings up vocabulary that you don't hear often. One of my daughter's favorite books is Just in Case by Judith Viorst. It's about a little boy who is always prepared for anything..."just in case". In one scenario he puts together a week's worth of lunches including lox for his parents, just in case the grocery stores are out of food. I don't eat lox, never talk about it, and my daughter has known since she was two-years-old that lox are salmon. Books will take your kids to another world and another academic level.
5. Increase your awareness of learning opportunities. Once you get in the habit of enhancing your child's activities, it will become second nature. Remind yourself to point out to your child that the stop sign is in the shape of an octagon and that it's the color red, which was also the color of the strawberries she ate this morning. The more you talk, the more they'll absorb.
We are an independent school serving children ages 5 to 14 (kindergarten through eighth grade) in Madison, Wisconsin, since 1972.