Taliban hold rare talks with Afghan politicians in Moscow

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

It was the second time President Ashraf Ghani was frozen out of Taliban peace talks in recent weeks, after the United States held entirely separate discussions with the militants in Doha without Kabul.

Even as the US has pursued diplomacy with the Taliban vis-à-vis the Qataris, Russia has been conducting its own diplomatic overtures, putting together a diplomatic conference in Moscow in November 2018 that brought together members of the Afghan government's High Peace Council, as well as Taliban delegates, and representatives from regional power brokers, including Islamabad, Tehran and Beijing.

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.

The Taliban demanded a new constitution for Afghanistan and promised an "inclusive Islamic system" to govern the war-torn country at a rare gathering with senior Afghan politicians in Russian Federation on Tuesday that excluded the Kabul government.

Stanekzai said the Taliban want the crisis to be resolved in a peaceful way and that the group wants to play a significant role in the security of the region.

It was based on a commitment to withdraw U.S. forces from the country, and a guarantee by the Taliban not to allow global jihadist groups to use Afghanistan as a base in the future. We don't want to lose that. Girls were banned from secondary school.

On an April withdrawal, he said: "It's our desire". Ghani's rivals could see an opportunity in these various Taliban talks to undermine his leadership, analysts say, ahead of presidential elections slated for July. "It has been imported from the West and is an obstacle to peace", Sher Abbas Stanikzai, who headed the Taliban delegation, told attendees at a central Moscow hotel.

The meeting that kicked off in the Russian capital on Tuesday has been seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving Afghanistan's 17-year war, one that has accelerated since the appointment of USA peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad last year.

The delegation around the table in Moscow included some of Afghanistan's most wealthy and influential men, warlords and others who wielded power in civilian governments.

The Moscow talks follow a series of direct negotiations between Taliban members and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad amid a renewed push by President Donald Trump to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

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"Those who have gathered in Moscow have no executive authority".

Speaking to the Afghan envoys, some of whom are female, the Taliban promised to loosen some restrictions on women and not seek a monopoly on power.

He said his administration was holding constructive talks with a number of groups, including Taliban militants.

Khalilzad is in a hurry to find a peace deal for Afghanistan that would allow America to bring home its troops after 17 years of war.

"The majority of Afghans overseas and inside the country have expectations from the Moscow talks; they wait for happy news while our rivals and those opposing peace and foresee interests in the war expect negative results from these talks here".

At least 36 members of the Afghan security forces and 22 Taliban fighters have been killed in fresh clashes in the country's north, officials and local media confirmed Tuesday.

"If you guys can eat together, laugh and pray together, hug each other why you are still killing innocent Afghans?" one Facebook user posted.

Serenko also said Moscow used this week's conference to legitimise its long-held ties with the Taliban which Russian Federation still designates as a terrorist group.

"There is no need to reinterpret Afghan women's lives", the statement said.

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