The Taliban on Sunday detonated a car bomb outside a government security compound in central Afghanistan killing 14 people and wounding 180, including scores of children.
The attack came at the onset of a two-day meeting between Afghan citizens and the militants, meant to open the way to an Afghan peace process that should build on a hoped-for deal between the United States and the Taliban to end the longest ever U.S. war.
“It is very hard to sit across from those men who are waging a war against innocent Afghans, but it is also a test of our commitment to peace,” said a senior Afghan government official involved in the talks.
The Taliban and U.S. officials are trying to strike a deal on a Taliban demand for the withdrawal of U.S. and other foreign forces and a U.S. demand that the Taliban not let Afghanistan be used as a base for terrorism.
But the Taliban have refused to negotiate with the U.S.-backed Afghan government, denouncing it as a U.S puppet.
So while the 60-member delegation of Afghan representatives in Qatar includes government officials, they are not there in their official capacity.
“I am here as an Afghan, but I am not sure if the Taliban view themselves as Afghans before anything else,” said the government official, who spoke by telephone from Qatar but declined to be identified.
Reuters spoke to six of the Afghan delegates attending the talks.
The Taliban officials were welcoming in general although less willing to discuss issues like women’s right and freedoms in society, the delegates said.