Afghan capital prepares for crunch peace meeting

"Peace jirga" could set the agenda for ending years of war.

Kabul: Hundreds of community, political and religious leaders from across Afghanistan were arriving in Kabul on Monday for a crucial assembly, or "peace jirga" that could set the agenda for ending years of war.

As security was tightened on the capital with the deployment of 12,000 personnel, the government was expected to declare Wednesday and Thursday national holidays for the third "jirga" since the 2001 US-led invasion.

The interior ministry said cordons had been set up around Kabul to prevent any infiltration by Taliban-led militants who have recently stepped up attacks.

"Helicopters from the Afghan police, army and ISAF are patrolling Kabul," ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told a news agency, referring to NATO`s International Security Assistance Force.

"Intelligence efforts have been boosted and a four-layer security cordon has been established," he said.

The National Consultative Peace Jirga aims to bring together leaders representing the country`s complicated mix of ethnic, tribal, geographic and gender interests.

It is due to take place over three days from Wednesday in a tent in Kabul`s southwestern suburbs, providing a forum for discussing what steps President Hamid Karzai should take
towards brokering a peace deal with the Taliban.

Security firms reported road closures around the Kabul
Polytechnic University, where delegates are being billeted
after students were evicted so their dormitories could be
renovated in time for the jirga.

Organisers said more than half an expected 1,600
delegates had already arrived in Kabul and would spend the
coming two days taking part in an orientation programme to
prepare them for the meetings to come.


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