The Afghan government has announced that thousands of elders and community leaders from across the country will gather in Kabul on Friday, August 7, for consultations on the Taliban peace process. At least 3200 people are expected to attend the traditional meeting, known as a Loya Jirga, to decide on the release of 400 Taliban prisoners, who President Ashraf Ghani has claimed he is unable to pardon due to the nature of their convictions. The prisoners were included in a list of 5000 Taliban detainees whose release had been agreed as a condition of the pact signed between the group and US officials in February as an initial step in the Afghan peace process. However, Taliban leaders have accused Ghani of delaying the peace process by refusing to release the remainder of the prisoners, having previously pardoned 4600 detainees on the group's list.
The details of the Loya Jirga have not been released, but such gatherings typically prompt significantly increased security in the capital, with roadblocks and security forces patrols around the meeting tent. Although the meeting relates directly to the Afghan peace process, the Taliban have previously targeted Loya Jirga gatherings in indirect fire attacks. The gathering may also present a target for other extremist groups in the country, including Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP).
A heightened security posture and associated disruptions are likely in Kabul on Friday and throughout the weekend.
Those in Kabul are advised to exercise a heightened level of vigilance and situational awareness during the Loya Jirga and minimize non-essential movement in the vicinity of the gathering.
Travelers should anticipate a heightened security presence and associated disruption throughout the city and heed any directives issued by local authorities and their home governments. The security environment in Afghanistan remains complex. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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