Afghanistan: Taliban insists on US-troop withdrawal at Moscow talks

kreml-45a

KABUL (TCA) — Taliban representatives and an Afghan delegation led by former President Hamid Karzai have concluded two-day talks in Moscow, with the militants continuing to insist upon the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan as a first step in the peace process, RFE/RL reported.

The talks were “very satisfactory,” Karzai said at the end of the February 5-6 talks, which have been described by some as part of an “intra-Afghan” peace process — despite the absence of Kabul government representatives.

The gathering has been criticized by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

It comes as broader peace talks involving the Taliban’s political office in the Qatari capital, Doha, appear to be gaining momentum, despite the Taliban’s continued refusal to meet directly with Afghan government representatives.

Karzai said the main issue under discussion in Moscow was that Afghanistan should be free of foreign forces, adding that there was a near consensus on this matter.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the head of the 10-member Taliban delegation in Moscow, said that the two days of talks with Afghan politicians were “very successful.”

“We agreed on many points and I am hopeful that in future, we can succeed further, and finally we can reach a solution, we can find a complete peace in Afghanistan,” he told reporters.

He also said that the time of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was not fixed yet and that negotiations on the matter were in progress.

“We insist that U.S. troops must go as soon as possible and we are in talks with the U.S.,” Stanikzai said.

Afghan President Ghani spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo late on February 5. Pompeo “underscored the central importance of ensuring the centrality of the Afghan government in the peace process,” Ghani said.

The Moscow meeting is “nothing more than a fantasy. No one can decide without the consent of the Afghan people,” Ghani separately told Afghan broadcaster ToloNews.

“Those who have gathered in Moscow have no executive authority. They can say what they want,” the Afghan president added.

Sergey Kwan

TCA