We are not a 'political tool': Afghan women on Taliban talks
07 February, 2019, 13:48 | Author: Taylor George
The Taliban is seeking the pullout of all foreign troops from Afghanistan within months, a senior official said, as the fundamentalist Islamic movement reached out to opponents of US -backed President Ashraf Ghani at talks in Moscow.
After almost two decades at war in Afghanistan, the United States seems to be seriously pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with the Taliban.
A Taliban official said on Wednesday the United States had promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, the RIA news agency reported, but Washington said no timeframe had been set.
USA -led forces in 2001 toppled the hardline Taliban for harboring the al Qaeda militants responsible for the September 11 attacks.
But perhaps adhering to the maxim that in global relations and statecraft there are no permanent friends or enemies, all parties that attended the Moscow conclave are working to protect their permanent interests in Afghanistan.
The Afghan president - who has vented frustration as his friends and enemies have negotiated the future of his country - describing the Moscow talks as "nothing more than fantasy".
Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the militant group launched a pre-dawn attack on an army base in northern Kunduz on Tuesday, killing 26 members of the security forces, Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the provincial council said.
"At the first step, we want all the foreign forces to leave and end the military presence in our country", said Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for a Taliban office in Qatar.
Far from the Afghan warzone, a two-day meeting in the Russian capital between the Taliban and Afghan figures, which started Tuesday, is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving the 17-year war.
According to two Afghan dailies, Kabul's absence from the Moscow gathering further "isolates Ghani" and "sabotages the authority of the Government".
This was no mere talking shop; the meeting brought representatives of the Taliban together with some of Afghanistan's main political players, including several of the country's most powerful regional and ethnic leaders.
Taliban militants who are in control of parts of Baghlan province have not commented on the attack. Former president Hamid Karzai threw weight behind the ongoing talks between the Taliban and USA envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.
Ghani wants the peace process to be led and owned by his Government. These included former president Hamid Karzai, ex-national security chief Haneef Atmar and an ally of Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.
On the critical issue of women's rights, Stanikzai said the Taliban were committed to all rights of women "that have been given to them by the sacred religion of Islam".
A 10-man Taliban delegation said it hoped to use the talks for "opening channels to reaching an understanding with non-government Afghan political groups".
The Taliban consider the Kabul administration a U.S. puppet but Ghani's allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process. "Everything" must include an intra-Afghan dialogue and comprehensive cease-fire".
"I think that unless, and until, they're [the Taliban] willing to talk directly with the Afghan government, it's going to be very hard for the United States, as much as it is angling to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. No one can decide without the consent of the Afghan people", Ghani separately told Afghan broadcaster Tolo News.
But with presidential elections in Afghanistan in June, President Ashraf Ghani is under pressure to bring the war to an end as civilians are overwhelmingly the biggest victims.
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