Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Afghanistan's rival presidential claimants, incumbent Ashraf Ghani and challenger Abdullah Abdullah, are seen in a composite image.

Rahmat Gul/AP; Afghanistan's Office of former Chief Executive/AFP/Getty Images

After months of deliberation, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Friday announced his 21-member team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, only to have his political opponent reject it as not inclusive enough.

Afghanistan’s political turmoil has impeded each tentative step toward negotiations with the Taliban – negotiations that are supposed to come next under a peace deal that Washington signed with the insurgents last month.

The deal calls for the eventual withdrawal of all 13,000 U.S. soldiers from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees from the Taliban to fight other militant groups, including the Islamic State group. The deal has been touted as Afghanistan’s best chance yet of ending its relentless wars.

Story continues below advertisement

But Ghani and his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah, have been locked in a power struggle that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could not resolve during his emergency visit to Kabul earlier this week.

Pompeo held talks with both Ghani and Abdullah, who has also declared himself president in a parallel inauguration ceremony earlier this month, but made no headway in reconciling the two. Washington subsequently said it would cut $1-billion in assistance to Afghanistan if the two leaders couldn’t “get their act together.”

Ghani’s 21-member team is led by the Masoom Stanikzai, former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, who was forced to resign last year. He quit after a CIA-trained team under his command was found to have killed four brothers they falsely accused of being Islamic State operatives.

The special forces unit known as Unit 02 still operates despite reports of abuses, including one last year by the Human Rights Watch, which documented what it says are mounting atrocities by U.S.-backed Afghan special forces.

Abdullah seeks a power-sharing deal with Ghani, something the Afghan president has so far rejected. Abdullah accuses Ghani of being unwilling to compromise while Ghani says his rival’s power-sharing demands will require a constitutional change and that can come only by holding a loya jirga, or grand council, of all Afghans.

In a televised speech a day after Pompeo’s visit, Ghani dismissed the threat of funding cuts and claimed that Afghanistan can manage without the $1-billion in U.S. aid.

Despite 18 years and billions of dollars in international aid, Afghanistan remains desperately poor. The poverty level soared from 35 per cent of the population in 2012 to more than 55 per cent last year. Poverty level counts those who survive on $1 or less a day. Successive Afghan governments, including Ghani’s, have been accused by international watchdogs of widespread corruption.

Story continues below advertisement

Meanwhile, Taliban political spokesman Sohail Shaheen said the group would send four members to the U.S.-led coalition base in Bagram, north of Kabul, to oversee the release of their prisoners, also part of the deal signed with the U.S.

That deal calls for the release of 5,000 Taliban and 1,000 government personnel and Afghan troops held captive by the Taliban.

The visit to Bagram will be the first time Taliban representatives have officially visited Afghanistan since being thrown out of power in 2001 by the U.S.-led coalition after they had sheltered al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government Friday ordered a three-week lock-down for Kabul to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Pharmacies and grocery stores will be allowed to open. Earlier, authorities imposed a lockdown in western Herat province, where nearly 200,000 Afghans had passed through on their return from Iran since the start of the year, on their way to their homes across the country.

Herat borders Iran, which has been hardest-hit in the region by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Afghanistan has so far recorded just 91 cases and four deaths but the tens of thousands returnees from Iran have dispersed throughout the country without being tested or having their whereabouts recorded.

Afghanistan’s health care system, already devastated by decades of war, would be overwhelmed by a major outbreak.

Story continues below advertisement

Also Friday, the Taliban were handing out soap and face masks in northern Badghis province, in areas under their control, according to images circulated on social media. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said their prayer leaders were also explaining safety measures to the public and how to protect against the virus.

In a Pashto-language statement, the Taliban said they have carried out public awareness campaigns in four provinces of northern Afghanistan, distributing face masks, soap and pamphlets telling the faithful that it was a religious duty to to keep themselves and their environment clean.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies