The Afghan government has completed a team of 21, including five women, that will negotiate with the Taliban in upcoming talks to end the 18-year conflict in Afghanistan.
The move is a crucial step to bring the belligerents to the table and to get a struggling US-led peace process going again.
Under an agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban last month, they agreed to start talks with the Afghan government and discuss a possible ceasefire.
So far, the Taliban have refused to meet with President Ashraf Ghani's government, calling him an American henchman.
In return for starting talks and other commitments, US and foreign partner forces will withdraw from Afghanistan in the next 14 months.
The negotiating team should be revealed weeks ago. The "intra-Afghan" talks with the Taliban should begin on March 10 in Oslo.
But Kabul was hit by a new political crisis, and Ashraf Ghani's legitimacy was questioned by his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who also made himself president.
The negotiating team is led by former Afghan intelligence chief Masoom Stanekzai, who, as a Pashtun, shares a tribal identity with the Taliban.
While there was no immediate indication of whether Abdullah supported the team, it included Batur Dostum, whose father Abdul Rashid Dostum – a notorious former warlord – is a staunch ally of Abdullah.
The Afghan Ministry of Peace said in a statement that Ashraf Ghani wished the delegation much success and urged them to take into account the best interests of the country, the common values of the Afghan people and the country's principle for a united Afghanistan at all stages of the negotiations.
Among the five female delegates is Habiba Sarabi, vice-chair of the government's High Peace Council. Sarabi is a Hazara, the predominantly Shiite ethnic group that the Taliban have repeatedly attacked.
Another delegate is Fawzia Koofi, an ethnic Tajik and an activist for women's rights, who vocally criticized the Taliban.
During their reign in much of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban forced women to stay at home, often banning the education of women and executed women due to weak allegations of adultery.
It is not clear when or where the "intra-Afghan" talks will start. Given the corona virus pandemic, officials say there is a chance they could start a video conference.
The government said on Wednesday that it would meet directly with Taliban members to discuss a massive prisoner exchange that would release 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 from the government.
This exchange had also been agreed in the US Taliban Agreement, although Ashraf Ghani is not a signatory.
The US has given Ashraf Ghani no choice but to get on the deal, and this week Washington has cut US aid by $ 1 billion while the Ghani-Abdullah dispute continues and threatens to be cut more severely, if Kabul does not resolve his political disputes.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)