By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — A planned meeting of hundreds of Afghan politicians and tribal, ethnic, and religious leaders aimed at discussing negotiations with the Taliban has been postponed, officials say.
The gathering, known as a consultative Loya Jirga, was initially set to be held in Kabul from March 17-20.
But sources at Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants, told RFE/RL on March 3 that there was not enough time to hold the event on schedule.
Mohammad Amin Waqad, a member of the HPC Executive Committee, said that the Loya Jirga was now expected to gather at the beginning of the new year, which in Afghanistan starts on March 21.
The Taliban, which now reportedly controls nearly half of Afghanistan, has so far refused to hold direct negotiations with the Afghan government, calling it a Western puppet.
However, it has held a series of direct talks with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in recent months to put an end to the 17-year war in Afghanistan.
President Ashraf Ghani’s special peace envoy said last month that the consultative Loya Jirga will discuss the government’s “values and red lines.”
The meeting will aim to come up with a framework for the Western-backed government in Kabul to engage in peace negotiations with the militant group, Omar Daudzai also said.