Afghan ‘peace jirga’ set to be delayed: diplomats

Afp April 21, 2010

KABUL: The Afghan government is expected to announce soon that a traditional “peace jirga” of political, tribal and community leaders will be delayed to late May, Western diplomats said Wednesday. A spokesman for President Hamid Karzai declined to confirm that the date had been changed but said an announcement could be expected as early as Wednesday afternoon. Western diplomats in Kabul said the decision had been made on Sunday to reschedule the jirga to May 20 from the original date of May 2. Richard Holbrooke, the US envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was quoted by US media as saying the change had been made so the meeting could be held after Karzai’s May 10-13 visit to Washington.

Holbrooke was quoted by the Washington Post newspaper as saying the jirga, which could also include “insurgent leaders,” had been postponed to May 20. The jirga aims to bring together leaders from across Afghanistan, representing the country’s complicated mix of ethnic, tribal, geographic and gender interests. About 1,500 people are expected to attend, to discuss the main issues facing the fractious country in the context of Karzai’s plans to bring peace and development after more than eight years of war. A European diplomat said one reason for the delay was that Karzai “is still lagging behind on outreach to different tribal leaders”.

“The Obama visit might just be an excuse,” he told AFP on condition of anonymity. NATO’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, told reporters on Tuesday that the jirga had the backing of the international community. “It is an important initiative, it has the support of the whole the international community,” he said, adding it could be a step on the road to peace for the war-torn country.

He said the meeting could bring support from across the country for the reconciliation of insurgent fighters, and provide the opportunity for insurgents to reintegrate into society. Afghanistan is mired in a war with Taliban-led insurgents, with the 126,000 NATO and US troops due to rise to 150,000 by August in an effort to quell the rebellion before parliamentary elections in September. AFP


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