September 28th, 2010
10:21 AM ET

Women, warlords on peace council for Taliban talks

Former warlords, village elders and women are among the members of an Afghan peace council designed to spearhead "serious, substantive dialogue" efforts with the Taliban opposition.

The Afghan government Tuesday announced the members of the High Peace Council that will spearhead reconciliation efforts.

"They will be the sole body to take care of the peace talks and the government of Afghanistan will respect their mandate and will not try to create back channels or to try to duplicate the work of the high council for peace," Waheed Omar, Afghanistan's presidential spokesman, told CNN.

A U.S.-led invasion overthrew the Taliban government after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, carried out by the al Qaeda terror network, which was harbored by the Taliban.

As the war ground on, talk emerged of contact between both sides.

"So far as contacts are concerned, yes - over the past years there have been signs and signals from the armed opposition. There have been contacts on both sides but all of that remains on the level of contacts and signs and signals," Omar said.

"There is no substantive negotiations or substantive dialogue with the armed opposition. And we hope that after the establishment of the peace council which was established today, we will enter into a serious substantive dialogue with the opposition."

Sixty men, eight women and two other women still to be named will serve on the panel, which was set up to help end the long war between coalition and Afghan forces and militants from the Taliban. President Hamid Karzai recently announced the creation of the panel.

The presence of women on the board is significant because the Taliban persecuted women when the movement controlled the country and have targeted institutions such as girls' schools during the insurgency.

Rachel Reid, an analyst for Human Rights Watch, said the list contains "too many names here that Afghans will associate with war crimes, warlordism and corruption."

"This is a disappointing outcome for Afghan women and girls," said Reid. "Women are once again being short-changed. The government had promised them more robust representation than this."

Omar said the group is "large" because the mandate is big.

"I'm sure that once the peace council starts working, they will have specialized groups working in different directions," he said.

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