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AAN Q&A: What came out of the Doha intra-Afghan conference?

Ambassadors Potzel and al-Qahtani talking at a dinner they hosted on the eve of the Doha Intra-Afghan Peace Convention, 6 July 2019. Supply: Amb. Potzel’s Twitter account (https://

Representatives of Afghanistan’s combatants and civil society met at a peace conference in Qatar’s capital Doha on 7-8 July 2019. All of them participated ‘in their personal capacities’ in an effort to circumvent the Taleban’s rejection of direct talks with the Afghan government. The convention that happened behind closed doorways ended with a joint ultimate decision. AAN’s co-director Thomas Ruttig analyses the documents and looks at the convention’s context, notably in relation to the parallel US-Taleban negotiations. He finds that members have produced parts of a attainable procedure and subjects for intra-Afghan peace negotiations however that a number of issues that have been left out mirror how a lot controversy nonetheless needs to be bridged.

At the end of the two-day conference that was initially dubbed an “Intra-Afghan Dialogue” but was renamed the “Intra-Afghan Peace Conference” by the individuals, presents have been distributed. They came from Mullah Baradar, the Taleban deputy chief for political affairs. Parwiz Shamal, news chief for the Afghan TV channel Tolonews (his boss, Lotfullah Najafizada was among the members), posted photographs displaying individuals with present luggage from a Qatari purchasing centre, containing dates and fragrance for the male individuals, and additionally headscarves and prayer mats for the ladies.

The presents weren’t with out which means. Feminine members from Kabul informed a reporter that that they had asked Taleban members in a foyer encounter throughout the convention whether or not their approach of doing the hijab (Islamic cover), sporting the chadri (headband) and never a burqa, was enough for them. They have been informed it was, and, by way of the presents, acquired another affirmative reply.

Who participated in the conference?

The conference brought together representatives from the Afghan authorities, opposition politicians, media and civil society activists with the Taleban. All have been invited ‘in their personal capacities’, as the Taleban don’t recognise the government and officially refuse to speak to it. The record of individuals was not officially released prematurely however quickly found its method into social media.

The record included 62 Afghans. Of those, 17 have been Taleban members, the others came together from Kabul on board of a aircraft charted by the German government. 11 of the representatives have been ladies however none of them from the Taleban’s aspect (a full members listing is included in the annex)

In the run-up to the conference, it was agreed that no appearing Afghan ministers or candidates for the September 2019 presidential election can be invited. This thus excluded Hanif Atmar, Dr Abdullah, Yunos Qanuni, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Zalmay Rassul and, of course, President Ashraf Ghani himself. Organisers made it clear that they needed to keep the assembly out of the election marketing campaign. The Taleban reciprocated by not sending Baradar.

This was totally different from earlier meetings held in Moscow in February and Might 2019, where a number of presidential candidates and in addition Baradar participated (AAN background right here and right here). There, Afghan authorities representatives have been both not invited, or selected to not participate as they were not invited ‘as the government.’ (1)

Amongst the highest-ranking government delegates have been a lady, former civil society activist Shaharzad Akbar, now deputy head of the Nationwide Security Council; Ahmad Nader Naderi, head of the Civil Service Reform Commission and former human rights commissioner; and Abdul Matin Bek, head of the Unbiased Directorate for Native Governance. All three, as well as others, represented the new era of trendy educated politicians. The deputy chairman of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC), Attaullah Rahman Salim, was also in attendance. The HPC, a body that’s formally unbiased however appointed by the president, isn’t seen by the Taleban as neutral.

Some individuals from Kabul represented their fathers’ era of army leaders from the civil conflict: Matin Bek, son of the assassinated northeastern Afghan mujahedin commander Mutaleb Bek; Bator Dostum, son of Jombesh get together leader Abdul Rashid Dostum; and Khaled Nur, son of former Balkh governor Atta Muhammad Nur. With Ghairat Bahir and Mohiuddin Mehdi, Hezb-e Islami and Jamiat-e Islami have been additionally current, as have been other former mujahedin and different armed group leaders reminiscent of Sayed Hamed Gailani, Haji Din Muhammad and Sayed Mansur Naderi from one of the country’s two divided Ismaili communities whose residence region, the Kayan valley in Baghlan, has just been taken over by Taleban. For the ‘reconciled’ Taleban, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaif came from Kabul.

From among civil society and media activists, there was Mary Akrami, government director of the Afghan Ladies’s Community; Seddiqullah Tawhidi, Government Director of Afghan Journalists Security Committee and Hadi Marefat from the Afghanistan Human Rights and Democracy Organisation, which runs a museum and research institute on the victims of the previous 40 years of the Afghan struggle (AAN reporting right here and right here).

The very best-ranking Taleb was Mullah Sher Muhammad Abbas, the head of their political office in Doha that doubles as the movement’s negotiations staff in parallel negotiations with the US (AAN analysis of these talks right here). There were additionally the 5 former Guantanamo inmates launched in a prisoner trade in 2014 (AAN reporting here and here). Baradar, whose unique identify is Mullah Abdul Ghani, did not personally participate on this meeting, nevertheless, he was in Doha for the seventh spherical of negotiations with US chief envoy Zalmay Khalilzad. These negotiations have been paused to allow the two-day dialogue meeting to take place. (An AAN evaluation about the state of affairs on the eve of the two sets of talks in Doha here.)

Aside from Akbar and Akrami, amongst the feminine individuals have been Habiba Sarabi, former ladies’s affairs minister and the first Afghan lady who was governor of a province (Bamyan, from 2005 to 2013); former MPs Fawzia Kufi who had additionally been at the Moscow meetings and Shahgul Rezayi, a Hazara from Ghazni; in addition to Anarkali Kaur Honaryar, a medical physician and representative of the small Afghan Sikh group (typically additionally representing the Hindus, by default) and another former MP. Honaryar spoke prominently on the first day and made a good deeper impression on the second, when she single-handedly initiated the including of a clause about the have to “respect and protect” spiritual and ethnic minorities in the resolution (photograph here).

Who organised the convention?

The convention was collectively prepared by the host country, Qatar, and Germany. Qatar is already the host for the ongoing US-Taleban negotiations in addition to being the seat of the Taleban’s political workplace. Germany had already helped in getting a primary round of US-Taleban negotiations underway in 2010. Those talks culminated in the 2014 prisoner change and the institution of the Taleban’s office in Qatar, but petered out in a dispute over the Taleban workplace’s status.

A first try and convey the Taleban and Afghans from Kabul collectively in Qatar in April earlier this yr failed. It had been organised by the Middle for Battle and Humanitarian Research (CCHS) in Doha that had been commissioned for that function by Qatar’s government. Following this failure, the Germans, in settlement with the US, introduced in a six-person group from the Berghof Basis, a non-governmental physique with expertise in conflict mediation in Sudan and the Horn of Africa.

On the eve of the conference, lunch and dinner meetings have been organised to “break the ice,” as CCHS director Sultan Barakat tweeted. No less than one of these conferences was also attended by Khalilzad. Together with his participation, he signalled that the convention had the US’s consent. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had said during a Kabul visit on 25 June 2019 that the German-Qatari initiative had helped “laying the groundwork for inter-Afghan negotiations to begin as soon as possible.” The US considers such negotiations as one of the 4 fundamental subjects of a future peace settlement with the Taleban.

The Qatari and German governments’ special representatives for Afghanistan, Mutlaq al-Qahtani and Markus Potzel, opened the conference with brief statements and then left the room, while the Berghof workforce remained for help.

What was the consequence of the conference?

The organisers did not provide an agenda; quite they left it to the individuals to develop one. They came up with one which reflected the organisers’ and mediators’ intention that there ought to be much less of a collection of statements on the numerous positions and extra give attention to the methodology of future negotiations. The session headlines have been: “objectives and principles”, “topics and issues” and “next step” (in singular).

At the finish of the two days, the members revealed a two-page joint “Resolution of Intra Afghan Peace Conference.” Its Pashto and Farsi/Dari versions (which had some inconsistencies between them) have been learn in the plenum, the former by ex-Taleban minister and management council member Amir Khan Mutaqi, the latter by Habiba Sarabi. The paperwork (see the full textual content in the annex) include a number of joint positions but in addition display a quantity of blanks.

Following the obligatory because of the organisers, individuals started with calling for “dialogue and agreement (…) to reach an understanding concerning our present and future.” This ought to be finished by means of what known as, considerably clumsily, “Afghan all-inclusive negotiations” (muzakerat-e hama-shumul-e Afghani). This half of the resolution caters to the worries of the Afghan government that felt excluded from the earlier dialogue meetings in Moscow and still is excluded from US-Taleban negotiations, but only partly, because it does not mirror the authorities’s position that it must be present ‘as the government’ and never only as one amongst many Afghan events. In fact, the authorities’s status in future negotiations also is dependent upon whether such negotiations start earlier than or after the deliberate September 2019 election.

The resolution then urges all events to scale back violence, not to assault public institutions and to deliver civilian casualties “to zero.” It appeals to “ensure the security (…) of schools, madrassas, hospitals, markets, dams and other workplaces.” Furthermore, all events are “encouraged” to launch “elderly, incapacitated and ill prisoners” and to cease calling each other names, to be able to “not fuel the conflict and revenge.” This refers to the Taleban labelling the Afghan government ‘US marionettes’ void of any decision-making power of its own, while many parties in Afghanistan call them ‘terrorists’ and ‘tools of foreign interests’, mainly of Pakistan.

In a separate paragraph, instructional establishments (“schools, universities, and other educational institutions”) have been listed along with residential areas to be “respected.” This displays considerations on all sides. Personal schooling centres have been attacked by insurgents (though mainly by the native Daesh outfit, the Islamic State Khorasan Province, see an example from Kabul in 2018 right here), whereas madrassas in Taleban-controlled areas have additionally been targeted by airstrikes (see AAN’s reporting on a 2018 incident in Kunduz province here).

Among the inconsistencies between the numerous variations of the paperwork are that the Farsi/Dari model specifies that solely “civilian” (mulki) instructional amenities should not be attacked. This leaves the approach open for continued assaults on army and police training centres. One Afghan commentator on social media requested why, despite the resolution’s lengthy listing, different varieties of institution which were targets of attacks in the previous had been left out or had threats hanging over them: “What about sports facilities? Journalists? Vehicles carrying civil servants? Non-security sector ministries?” The clause about the protection of civilians is additional restricted – once more in its Dari model – by the caveat, this ought to be “attempted.”

Although all individuals came as ‘in their personal capacity’, it is clear that they spoke on behalf of their respective organisations or institutions. Nevertheless, and regardless of envoy Potzel’s statement that the resolution’s content constituted both an “appeal and promise,” it remains a doc that isn’t binding. The resolution represents no agreement or pact. Taleban chief negotiator Stanakzai additionally emphasised this point immediately after the conference. He stated, “These decisions are implementable when an intra-Afghan dialogue is held and the governance, women rights, education and other issues are discussed.”

Nevertheless, the decision can now be publicly referred to if parties to the conflict violate any of the included declarations of intent. Furthermore, all events already insist that they are protecting civilians and civilian establishments whereas, in apply, often violating this (as the UNAMA studies on the safety of civilians recurrently point out – see AAN’s analysis of latest tendencies right here). A commentary by International Disaster Group’s Borhan Osman revealed on 5 July 2019 confirmed how this affects lives and traumatises many, primarily in rural Afghanistan.

Events found it simpler to agree on another rules corresponding to that Afghanistan ought to have an “Islamic order” (that is already a provision in the current constitution); “necessary reform, preservation and strengthening” of state, together with defence-related institutions (President Ghani has even provided even constitutional modifications, see AAN’s reporting right here); the dignified return and resettlement of refugees and IDPs; to request neighbouring and regional nations to cease all interference in Afghanistan’s affairs or to work out new circumstances for future donor help (the English model solely has an attraction for brand spanking new help).

The identical goes for some features of a future “peace agreement,” specifically that it ought to be (externally?) monitored and observed, and that there must be one other worldwide convention to work out ensures for the implementation of this agreement.

Additionally it is fascinating to note what the resolution does not include. There isn’t any mention of a ceasefire. This is the largest wish of many people in Afghanistan that suffer from the day by day threats and actions of conflict, and a number of other members introduced this up in the plenary periods. There’s also no mention of the withdrawal of overseas forces, on the need of which all sides agree, although beneath totally different circumstances. Government representative Nader Naderi said from Doha that the Taleban objected to calling for a “responsible” withdrawal; it appears that evidently in their eyes this might open a backdoor for an extension of the presence of at the least some overseas troops or an ‘anti-terrorism’ intelligence element, as President Donald Trump has publicly favoured.

Similarly, Afghanistan’s present international commitments usually are not talked about as a result of of, in line with Naderi, Taleban reservations. This has been interpreted as a Taleban rejection of ladies’s rights (that are alluded to as “within the framework of Islamic values”). A information agency quoted delegates as saying that the Taleban officials have been welcoming normally though less prepared to debate issues similar to ladies’s rights and freedoms in society.

Some commentators have started to name the resolution a ‘road-map’ (for instance here and here). Participant Mary Akrami is more cautious. She stated, “It’s not an agreement, it’s a foundation to start the discussion.”

The intra-Afghan meetings are alleged to be continued. German envoy Potzel informed Tolo TV this could occur “in Uzbekistan or Europe.” Norway has been mentioned, also Indonesia. Potzel was reluctant to say whether Germany would continue to help organise such a follow-up assembly. He added his authorities hoped “that this dialogue format will mark the starting point for a comprehensive peace process in Afghanistan.”

What is the hyperlink to the parallel US-Taleban talks in Doha?

On the US-Taleban talks in Doha, there has just lately been contradictory news. On the one hand, in a press briefing in Doha on the day the convention started, Khalilzad stated there had been “substantive” progress in his negotiations with the Taleban on all four issues key to a peace agreement and that his discussions had broadened to include a timeline for each intra-Afghan negotiations in addition to a cease-fire. On the other hand, the Taleban denied this was the case. They insist that only the overseas troop withdrawal and anti-terrorism ensures have been discussed in these negotiations, not the involvement of the Afghan government, as desired by Kabul and supported by Washington, or a ceasefire.

Khalilzad further stated he hoped that the Doha convention would produce a “political roadmap” for the intra-Afghan negotiations about Afghanistan’s post-agreement future and echoed Pompeo’s Kabul statement that Washington’s “aspiration” was to have that framework in place by 1 September, nonetheless before the scheduled Afghan presidential election. Nevertheless, he also indicated that he expects that the full settlement would wish longer when he stated that it might finally be up to Afghans to determine amongst themselves the agenda for negotiations, in addition to the phrases of a cease-fire.

This desired link between the US-Taleban negotiations and the now begun intra-Afghan dialogue that also needs to morph into intra-Afghan negotiations, still has to emerge. The joint decision from the Doha convention, did not, at the very least, create new obstacles. The paragraph that a peace course of ought to start “simultaneously with the accomplishment of all terms and conditions set forth” appears to discuss with the Taleban’s insistence that there be a publicised and internationally witnessed timetable for the withdrawal of overseas troops before the inner elements of Afghanistan’s post-agreement political set-up could be mentioned, ie in the intra-Afghan negotiations. However it can be read as an affirmation of the US precept, not shared by the Taleban, that “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.”

In the meantime, the US-Taleban talks in Doha resumed and reportedly concluded on 9 July. Outcomes are still unknown. Reuters quoted a senior US official “privy to the talks” that “Khalilzad will now brief his bosses and they will make an announcement. The seventh round has ended.”

What have been the reactions to the conference in Afghanistan?

Habiba Sarabi, one of the highest-ranking members at the conference referred to as it “successful.” Naderi was quoted as saying that “Many differences were made clear in the two days [of the meeting], meanwhile, common points were recognized. These common points will provide the ground for more trust and [direct] talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban for ending the war.”

President Ghani, who has not issued a press release about the convention to date, only reacted indirectly. Once more with out mentioning the convention, he was quoted as saying at an anti-corruption conference in Kabul on 10 July 2019 that talks ought to happen between the government and the Taliban, as a result of they are the two events at conflict. The Afghan overseas ministry, in the meantime, welcomed the ultimate declaration from Doha, saying that point is short and there was a need for the launch of an intra-Afghan dialogue to succeed in a peace deal.

Not everyone in Afghanistan supported the delegation from Kabul going to Doha and talking with the Taleban, notably after the Taleban’s heavy automotive bomb attack in Kabul on 1 July 2019 towards a ministry of defence set up, that wounded multiple hundred civilians, many of them faculty youngsters. Following this newest assault, the government’s Chief Government, Dr Abdullah, referred to as the Taleban “a group with an inherent criminal nature.” There were calls for a boycott or a minimum of “holding off” the meeting.

After the convention, the similar critics questioned whether the convention’s consequence represented any progress. Wazhma Frogh, a outstanding ladies’s rights activist, said that it was “naïve & dangerous” when individuals believed the Taleban had changed no less than some positions (see here, here and here).

The critics have good and sometimes very personal causes to oppose the Taleban and doubt their intentions. Too typically the Taleban’s phrases and deeds are contradictory, as the many civilian casualties in assaults that targeted army installations showed. However neither have critics proven any reasonable various on the right way to end the 40-year warfare – which is the most bloody worldwide – with out speaking and compromising with the Taleban.

There’s also a way of denial that the current state of affairs in Afghanistan can’t solely be blamed on the Taleban (and Pakistan) however that there are additionally large faults within the present system. Afghanistan’s so-called unity government, with Ghani and Abdullah at its helm, despite many massive words, has not managed to develop a convincing negotiations strategy or put it to a broad nationwide consensus. Those intervening from outdoors have – typically all but in words – turned a blind eye to corruption within the government and widespread torture used in the safety forces it has supported, with that enjoying into the arms of the Taleban. Segments of Afghanistan’s elites, together with of civil society, turn a blind eye when half of the inhabitants lives in poverty and civilians in Taleban-controlled areas are killed on an virtually every day foundation by the army they help. Refusing to negotiate and denying them a spot in Afghanistan’s future is the recipe for sustained warfare and killing.

What does it all mean?

That the Doha conference members managed to draw up a joint remaining declaration was greater than many had expected. After 40 years of struggle and the killing of virtually 230,000 individuals after 1989, it is a success when one thing moves ahead, if even by solely a small step. And though this was not – as variously reported – the first time that Taleban and authorities representatives have sat and talked in a single room (there have been earlier conferences, organised in France and Japan, declared as educational conferences, see right here, and monitor II meeting, comparable to the ones organised by Pugwash right here; in Norway, the Taleban met female Afghan politicians for the first time in 2015, see right here), it’s a new beginning in the search for a negotiated finish to the struggle in Afghanistan.

The ultimate decision features a relatively lengthy record of joint positions by the combatants as well as different individuals but many of those are comparatively common and have been straightforward to agree on. Giant gaps stay, nevertheless, from political and ladies’s rights to the sequencing of a peace agreement – in addition to the scepticism felt by giant elements of the Afghan public and political courses. However this may also be seen as a constructive level, insofar as the gaps turned visible. This is what the parties and mediators can and should work on. But it’s too early to call the Doha consequence a totally workable ‘road map’; just one has seen contours for the time being.

The Doha Intra-Afghan Peace Conference was doubtless just the first in what has to turn out to be a collection of conferences, throughout which the process has to morph from conferences to fully-fledged intra-Afghan negotiations. There will undoubtedly be quite a bit of hindrances lying in the details that also have to be labored out on an entire vary of issues, from where a future authorities’s legitimacy will come (by way of elections and in that case, in what type of elections?) to disarmament and the pricey reintegration of decommissioned fighters. The calls to protect civilians and civilian institutions that answer to widespread common emotions may be turned on its head. When all events begin accusing each other of not heeding these calls, this might undermine the little trust already created and mirrored in the joint resolution earlier than intra-Afghan negotiations have even begun. (2)

Importantly, both the Taleban and the Afghan authorities have moved forwards. This has paved the approach for direct talks between them turning into a risk – the Taleban by sitting with government representatives, Kabul by not placing obstacles in the method of the Doha conference and by not insisting that their representatives seem in their official capacities. However, as previously mentioned, the satan shall be in the detail.

Edited by Sari Kouvo

(1) In one of the meetings in Might, the Afghan ambassador attended for at some point though today was dedicated to formally celebrating the 100thanniversary of Afghan-Russian (truly Soviet) relations. The subsequent day, the actual dialogue with the Taleban began without the ambassador. HPC members additionally participated in some meetings. This led not only to more dangerous blood between the incumbent and his workforce and a few of the rival candidates but in addition between Kabul and Moscow (extra here).

(2) This temper has not but been overcome. One media quoted a “senior official, who spoke by telephone from Qatar but declined to be identified” as saying “I am here as an Afghan, but I am not sure if the Taliban view themselves as Afghans before anything else.”

Annex 1: Unofficial English Translation of the Decision (as distributed in Dubai)

Resolution of Intra Afghan Peace Convention

Doha, Qatar

We, the members of the Convention hereby respect, thank and worth the efforts of Qatar and German Government for organizing Intra Afghan Peace Conference held on 7 and eight July 2019 in Doha Qatar and categorical our deepest gratitude accordingly.

We categorical our biggest gratitude from the United Nations, Regional Nations, notably, nations who’ve facilitated the negotiations for USA and intra afghan peace convention and have taken vital steps in the direction of the battle decision. We are hoping that these events will continue their help in a method that may benefit our country and the nation and outcome into a real and fascinating peace.

From our level of view, dialogue and settlement assists us to succeed in an understanding regarding our current and future, be capable of deal with the limitations and obstacles in addition to understand one another. Subsequently, all individuals insist and emphasis on the continuation of the dialogue.

We the members of the Doha conference hereby agree on the following factors to succeed in a sustainable peace.

  1. All members have full consensus that attaining sustainable, throughout and a dignified peace which is the demand of the Afghan individuals, is simply attainable by way of afghan Inclusive negotiations
  2. Afghanistan is a united, Islamic Nation and residential for all totally different ethnicities. Islamic Sovereignty, social and political justice, nationwide unity, territorial sovereignty, which all Afghans are committed upon.
  3. Throughout the historical past, notably throughout the final 40 years, the Afghan individuals have defended their religions, nation, and tradition and sacrificed immensely for their unbiased. Afghanistan shall not be the witness of one other conflict in the nation and intra Afghan settlement between totally different levels of the society is significant and crucial. All International Group, regional and inner parts shall respect out values accordingly.
  4. Since our nation is suffering day by day because of on going prolonged warfare and its subsequently, needed that the following steps are wanted to be taken so that we will have an effective Intra Afghan negotiation.

a) The battle parties shall keep away from threats, revenges and conflicting phrases, shall use delicate terminologies and phrases during their official gatherings, and shall not gasoline the battle and revenge.

b) The Doha peace conference individuals strongly helps the present peace talks in Doha and believes that an efficient and constructive consequence from the negotiations might be fruitful for Afghanistan.

  1. The following steps shall be taken to create trustable setting for peace and as a way to have our nation protected from the struggle and its consequences, violence and devastation shall be decreased: the conflict events shall think about these measures.

a) unconditional release of elders, disables and sick inmates.

b) Making certain the safety of public establishments, corresponding to faculties, Spiritual Madrassas, hospitals, markets, water dams and different working places.

c) Particularly, respect instructional establishments, like faculties, universities, and different instructional establishments as nicely residential areas.

d) Dedicated to respect and shield the dignity of individuals, their life and property and to attenuate the civilian casualties to Zero.

  1. Assuring ladies rights in political, social, financial, instructional, cultural affairs as per within the Islamic framework of Islamic Values.
  2. The members of Doha convention agrees on a roadmap for peace based mostly on the following circumstances:

a) institutionalizing Islamic system in the nation for the implementation of comprehensive peace,

b) Start of the peace process concurrently with the accomplishment of all terms and circumstances set forth.

c) monitoring and statement of the peace settlement,

d) Reform in the preservation of elementary establishments, defensive and different national entities which belongs to all Afghans,

e) repartition of immigrants and return of IDPs,

f) help and assistance from donor nations submit peace settlement based mostly on the new cooperation and relations,

g) Insist throughout worldwide conferences relating to the assurance of Afghanistan peace agreement.

h) Assurance on zero interference from the neighboring and regional nations in Afghanistan.

  1. We acknowledge and approve the current resolution of intra Afghan conference held on 5 and 6 Feb 2019 in Moscow and we urge the Islamic Conference, UN, Security council, EU and our neighboring nations to help the peace conferences held in Moscow and Doha.


(We do publish the Farsi/Dari and Pashto versions of the conference’s resolution as AAN acquired them in a technically very poor state.)

Annex 2: individuals record

20190707 Doha dialogue members listing