More than 3000 important Afghan personalities, politicians, tribal leaders and religious leaders are attending a consultative grand assembly, known as the Loya Jirga aimed at forging a peace deal with the Taliban.

Iran Press/Asia: The 'Loya Jirga' kicked off on Monday, April 29, 2019 under tight security measures in the capital Kabul.

Afghanistan's President, Ashraf Ghani opened the Loya Jirga, under a huge tent in central Kabul, with some 3,200 tribal elders as well as senior community and religious figures from all over the country in attendance, Reuters reported.

 “It is a proud moment for me to have representatives from all over the country here and today we are gathered to speak about the peace talks,” Ghani said in the opening ceremony.

Much of the capital has been locked down under security measures for the event, which started weeks after the Taliban announced their so-called spring offensive, during which the militant group steps up its attacks across the country.

Opposition leaders and government critics, including former president Hamid Karzai, have however boycotted the event.

Opposition accuse Ashraf Ghani of using the grand traditional assembly Loya Jirga as a tool to boost his position for winning a second term as president in the upcoming presidential elections which are set for September.

Taliban militants were invited to attend the Loya Jirga by Afghan President, but they rejected the offer and urged others to boycott the assembly.

The Taliban says Loya Jirga negotiations is an attempt by government to deceive the people and opposition to extend its 'illegitimate rule.'

“Do not participate in the enemy’s conspiracy under the name of Jirga; instead find ways to further sideline the shaky administration of Kabul,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

The Taliban has, however, held several rounds of talks with the US in Qatar’s capital Doha. US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad signaled progress in the talks last month, saying the two sides had reached an 'agreement in draft' on the issues of troop withdrawals and counter-terrorism assurances.

The US and Taliban negotiators have ended their latest round of negotiations in Doha, with both sides hailing progress in talks.

The Taliban's demands are focused on the withdrawal of US forces from the country.

The Taliban’s five-year rule over at least three quarters of Afghanistan came to an end following the US-led invasion in 2001, but 18 years on, Washington is seeking a truce with the militants, who still control large swathes of territory.

US forces have remained bogged down in Afghanistan through the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump.105/211/205


Read More:

EU to cooperate with Iran on peace in Afghanistan

US, Taliban talks end with agreement on Americans withdrawal

Afghan government ready to negotiate with the Taliban