Taliban To Join Moscow Talks Without Afghan Government Officials

Afghan security personnel patrol in the city of Ghazni province west of Kabul Afghanistan. A Taliban assault on Ghazni a key city linking areas of Taliban influence barely 75 miles from Kabul has killed about 100 Afghan policemen

Afghan security personnel patrol in the city of Ghazni province west of Kabul Afghanistan. A Taliban assault on Ghazni a key city linking areas of Taliban influence barely 75 miles from Kabul has killed about 100 Afghan policemen

Afghan opposition leaders are set to meet Taliban envoys in a meeting decried by Afghanistan government officials as a betrayal that could let insurgents exploit political divisions.

The Taliban's longtime negotiator, Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, who has taken part in all rounds of discussions between the insurgents and Khalilzad among other United States diplomats in recent months, will lead the Taliban delegation in Moscow. The Moscow-based Council of Afghan Society, an organization of the Afghan diaspora in Russian Federation, said in a statement issued in Kabul on February 4 that it was the organizer of the meeting.

At the end of their six days of uninterrupted talks in the Qatari capital last month, Khalilzad and chief Taliban negotiator Stanekzai, in separate statements announced they are close to a deal on a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in exchange for assurances from the Taliban they will not to allow terrorists to use Afghan soil for future attacks against America and its allies.

Atmar, a former communist, said in a statement that the Afghan nonstate actors will try to make future such meetings more inclusive and involve the Government as well.

A statement from Ghani's office charged that Afghan politicians attending the gathering were doing so "in order to gain power".

The Taliban have refused to talk to Ghani's government, which they denounce as a USA puppet.

A statement released on Monday by Afghans attending the Moscow meeting described it as "the first step toward intra-Afghan dialogue". Ghani's chief adviser, Fazel Fazly, tweeted that it was "regrettable".

Like the Taliban, Moscow has been insisting on a pullout of US-led troops from Afghanistan.

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Along with Karzai, numerous 38 delegates from Kabul have held prominent government positions.

Leading politicians including the former president, Hamid Karzai, will start two days of talks in Moscow on Tuesday, even as the insurgent movement refuses to talk to the current president.

The former leader Karzai confirmed his attendance at the talks, saying in a tweet he would carry a message of "peace, unity, sovereignty and progress for all of us". It urged the Afghan government to play "its constructive role" for achieving a sustainable peace in the country.

"Holding such meetings will not help us in reaching peace at all, so it's little more than a political drama", Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Sebghat Ahmadi told reporters in Kabul when asked for his reaction to the Moscow talks.

The statement did not address the absence of Afghan government representatives or Ghani's criticism.

"The planned meeting effectively implements the principle of a peace process led by the Afghans and owned by the Afghans, which has been approved by the global community".

It said participants will discuss a range of issues including a ceasefire, ways to support Khalilzad's initiatives, and a path to ensure a "powerful and democratic central government" in Afghanistan. Critics suggested the disputed Afghan talks could have stemmed from Moscow's deepening rivalry with Washington. President Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed his desire to bring USA troops home, adding to the urgency of Khalilzad's mission.

Lavrov will visit the former Soviet republics of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, meeting the leadership of each country and navigating the security landscape in light of Trump's stated intention to withdraw all USA troops from Afghanistan.

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