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Taliban has finalised negotiating team for intra-Afghan talks

DIGEST-ENG-25-08-2020-Afg

The Taliban chief has finalised a negotiating team that is to have decision-making powers in upcoming intra-Afghan negotiations, a top Taliban negotiator told The Associated Press.

Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzada hand-picked the 20-member team, 13 of whom comprise about half of the Taliban's leadership council, lead Taliban negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai told AP.

The negotiating team will have the authority to set agendas, decide strategy and even sign agreements with the political leadership of the Afghan government in Kabul, Stanikzai said.

"This is a powerful team ... All decision-making powers are with the negotiation team," Stanikzai said.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who signed the peace deal with Washington on February 29 paving the way for the intra-Afghan negotiations and a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, will keep the post as head of the Taliban's political office in Qatar.

The critical intra-Afghan talks, which were laid out in the peace deal signed in the Qatari capital Doha, were expected to begin August 20 but have been plagued by relentless delays.