Afghan troops killed in Taliban attack on military base

Minnie Murray
February 9, 2019

Afghanistan's former president, Hamid Karzai, was involved in the meeting and hailed the discussions, saying the participants shared a desire for peace and stability and opposition to foreign intervention.

He said on Twitter early on Wednesday he had received assurances by phone from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about Washington's commitment to an "enduring partnership" with Afghanistan.

A Taliban official said on Wednesday that the United States had promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April during talks last month, RIA news agency reported, more than past estimates of the planned pull-out.

The discussions in Moscow came two weeks after Taliban and American diplomats announced significant progress in six days of negotiations in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office.

Ghani's representatives were not welcomed by the Taliban to Qatar, where the insurgents held talks with USA representatives for six days in January alone.

President Ghani and his allies campaign for an "Afghan-led and Afghan-owned" peace process, in which the government plays a central role by engaging directly with the Taliban.

"The Taliban said they are ready to sever ties with al Qaeda and the Islamic State, and this is a good development", Ghani said.

Sources close to the Taliban have meanwhile said changes to the team could help the process.

U.S. negotiators had tried to persuade the Taliban to meet Afghan officials, but Stanikzai remained vague when questioned about the circumstances under which they would ever agree to do so, the BBC said.

Officials in Kabul have suggested the discussions in Russian Federation are an attempt by political rivals to undermine the Afghan government, and explore a potential deal with the Taliban without their input.

"We all of us agreed on the withdrawal of foreign forces and the establishment of an Islamic government and making a constitution - an Islamic constitution", he said.

Women - and many men too - are frightened about the possible terms of an agreement and very aware that they would essentially be unenforceable once USA troops were out of the country.

"We always wanted to speak to our brothers, the Taliban", he said.

Taliban is making "nice statements" in Moscow but back home schools for girls are closed in majority of Taliban-controlled areas Fawzia Koofi, a member of Afghan parliament and one of the two women participating in ongoing "inter-Afghan" talks in Moscow, told TRT World.

He said delegates agreed on "almost" everything - but a consensus was not reached over the Taliban's demand for an Islamic constitution, and the group's views on women.

The rigid insurgent stance also forced Washington to exclude Ghani's government from talks between US and Taliban officials seeking a political resolution to the conflict.

Meanwhile, as the talks were underway in Moscow, violence continued in Afghanistan.

"Hopefully the conference will facilitate an Intra-Afghan dialogue so Afghanistan could achieve a lasting-peace through it", he said, hoping direct talks between the Afghan government and Taliban militants would take place soon.

But involvement of the Taliban in any government frightens many women, who recall the stifling restrictions under the Islamic insurgents.

The clearest indication of how the Indian military, intelligence, and diplomatic bureaucracies ("deep state") truly feel about America's Afghan peace talks with the Taliban can be seen in retired Major-General Harsha Kakar's recent article on the topic for "The Statesman", where the otherwise presumably serious former military official shows the sour grapes that his country has over this process by resorting to a chain of emotional arguments to make the implied point that the war must go on at all costs in order to advance India's strategic interests vis-à-vis Pakistan at the US' expense. "We can find complete peace in Afghanistan". He has held several meetings with the Taliban. He did not mention the Afghans who have died (24,000 civilians since 2009, and 45,000 members of the security forces in the last five years), let alone the nation's broader suffering in the world's deadliest conflict.

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