‘Our goal is to end invasion’: Taliban seeks talks with US on NATO troop withdrawal
“We will not tolerate a single US soldier in Afghanistan,” said the head of the Taliban delegation at the international meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, adding that the insurgent group’s “main goal” is to “put an end” to the 17-year-long “invasion” led by the US and its allies.
Still, Stanikzai said, the militants are ready to negotiate – but only with Washington, which they see as the real force behind the current Afghan government.
The US and Taliban did actually engage in direct talks recently, Stanikzai said, hailing it as a positive sign.
“The Americans have realized that we should solve the Afghan problems through negotiations,” he said, admitting that the talks are at the very early stages and so far amounted to “confidence-building measures.”
#BREAKING ‘We will have NO direct contact with the government in #Kabul’ - #Taliban movement political office members in #Moscow to talk about peace in #Afghanistan.— Maria Finoshina (@MFinoshina_RT) 9 ноября 2018 г.
More soon on @RT_compic.twitter.com/kDpG6DAjAh
Alice Wells, deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, was reported to have met with several Taliban officials in Doha, Qatar in July. Despite multiple media reports, the meeting was not officially confirmed by the US government, however.
“America does want to and needs to leave Afghanistan but we need to leave the Afghan government in charge and not to let the return of Taliban,” former naval intelligence officer John Jordan told RT, adding that Afghanistan has turned into “a problem that everyone wants to solve but no one wants to own.”
The Moscow talks have been part of a separate diplomatic push aimed at “seeking ways to build an inclusive intra-Afghan dialog,” according to the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who opened the meeting on Friday. He also welcomed Taliban’s participation in the event by saying that it is an important step towards a direct dialog between the insurgents and the Afghan government.
The ‘Moscow format’ talks were a result of consultations between the diplomats from Russia, Afghanistan, China, Pakistan, India and Iran and were first held in 2017. Taliban joined the talks attended by the diplomats from the six countries for the first time. The meeting was also attended by the representatives of the Afghan High Peace Council – a body affiliated with the government and tasked with finding a diplomatic solution to the Afghan crisis.
However, the High Peace Council, which did hold brief direct talks with the Taliban delegation in Moscow, did not officially represent the government, the Afghan Foreign Ministry said, but even this small rapprochement was regarded as success by all parties.
The international community wants to see a “peaceful, prosperous and independent Afghanistan free of terrorism and drugs,” Lavrov said, adding that Russia “is determined to do everything in its power” to help Afghanistan achieve this goal.
Washington still has almost 15,000 troops in Afghanistan, who are officially “advising and assisting” the forces loyal to the government in Kabul. While the Taliban outright control just four percent of Afghanistan, they are operating in 70 percent of the country.
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