Afghan president holds council to set agenda for peace talks

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan president is hosting a grand council of some 2,500 prominent figures to agree on a shared approach to peace talks with the Taliban.

But the gathering — known as a Loya Jirga — instead looks to further aggravate divisions within the U.S.-backed government, even as America makes progress with the insurgents in direct talks aimed at ending the 18-year war

President Ashraf Ghani hopes to showcase unity at the gathering of politicians, tribal elders and others. But Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, his partner in a unity government brokered by the United States after a bitterly disputed election in 2014, heads a list of prominent no-shows.

U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilza has held several rounds of talks with the Taliban, who refuse to negotiate directly with the Kabul government.

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