Taliban sit for second day with Afghan leaders in Moscow

Taliban sit for second day with Afghan leaders in Moscow

Taliban sit for second day with Afghan leaders in Moscow

Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai made a rare appearance in front of global media.

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.

Elaborating on the growing talk of a peace deal in Afghanistan, the Taliban says that they have received commitments for a major United States drawdown from the country in the next couple of months.

A Taliban official said on Wednesday that no timetable had been agreed with the US government for the partial withdrawal of USA forces from Afghanistan, and that negotiations were still underway.

The militant group refuses to talk to the government, calling it illegitimate.

Presidential hopeful Mohammad Haneef Atmar, who is attending the Moscow talks, gave journalists a brief update about the session on Wednesday and said "we are extremely optimistic about the results". It appears that Russian Federation facilitated the meeting despite strong opposition from President Ghani, who has also been sidelined from other peace initiatives led by USA special envoy Zalmai Khalilzad in recent months.

"Everybody is talking about peace, but how is it going to be reached?"

"However, Pakistan's actions are often a source of frustration to the United States regional efforts in Afghanistan", General Votel said.

The discussions between US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives have reached a critical juncture with the two sides signalling that at least for now they are ready to end the fighting, thereby bringing the curtains down on a 17-year-old war. "The timeline is not fixed so far and it is not agreed upon but we are negotiating this".

Participants also agreed on the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Moscow had hosted a multilateral summit on Afghanistan last November, inviting officials from regional countries, besides a Taliban delegation.


Despite the talks in Moscow, and a further round of US-Taliban discussions being scheduled for 25 February, violence in Afghanistan continues.

"At the end of any peace deal, the decision-maker will be the government of Afghanistan", Ghani told TOLO News, the country's largest private television station.

The Taliban consider the Kabul administration a U.S. puppet but Ghani's allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process. "If they (Taliban) return and impose restrictions on women, we will not accept that", Mashal Roshan, a coordinator from the Kabul-based women's network, told AFP.

Earlier on Tuesday, General Joseph Votel, head of the military's Central Command, warned that Islamic State would pose an enduring threat.

"Only they will be able to resolve the key issues involved in the dispute".

However, the gathering has been criticized by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Karzai, who was president from 2001 to 2014, said he was "happy" to sit down with his former foes.

Taliban and influential Afghan opposition leaders concluded a rare two-day "peace meeting" in Moscow on Wednesday, where they jointly declared that a complete withdrawal of USA -led foreign forces was key to a lasting peace in Afghanistan.

US-led forces in 2001 toppled the hardline Taliban for harboring the al Qaeda militants responsible for the September 11 attacks.

He added 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.

Under their brutal interpretation of Sharia law, the Taliban confined women to their homes, only allowing them outside with a male escort and hidden beneath a burqa.

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