Uzbekistan ready to host Afghan peace talks

Charlene Craig
February 7, 2019

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, among the Afghan opposition politicians attending the talks, said the principle issue under discussion was that Afghanistan should be free of foreign forces.

The Taliban began an extraordinary meeting with high-ranking Afghan politicians - including women - on Tuesday in Moscow, where rivals of President Ashraf Ghani called for an interim government as they negotiated without him.

Former Vice President Mohammad Yunus Qanuni and former Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor are also on the list of participants, along with former Taliban insurgents who reconciled with the Afghan government.

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.

The statement said National Security Advisor HamdullahMohib, who attended the meeting, said foreign countries' envoys could play a crucial role in strengthening their countries' relations with Afghanistan.

The Russian Embassy in Kabul said the gathering was an intra-Afghan dialogue to discuss ways of ending the war.

"A more involved role for Moscow has surprised many, mostly due to Russia's bloody history in Afghanistan", said The Soufan Center, a non-profit security analysis group.

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"Peace talks with the Taliban continue, but [the Defense Department] has not received a directive to change the force structure in Afghanistan", said Manning.

The Taliban reiterated on Wednesday their long-held demand that all foreign troops get out of Afghanistan, rejecting a suggestion by US President Donald Trump of a lingering US focus on counter-terrorism after troops are drawn down.

Knowing, though, that the United States is bent on withdrawing forces, Pakistan would want to ensure that its own security is not compromised, strengthen ties with the United States and benefit financially, and prevent Indian influence in Afghanistan while enhancing its own. Treatment of women under the group's reign, when they were denied the most basic of rights, drew worldwide scorn.

"Rest assured that no one can push us aside", he said. The talks, however, have sidelined Ghani and his government.

"It will not bring peace to Afghanistan", Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai said.

Ghani's representatives were not welcomed by the Taliban to Qatar, where the insurgents held talks with United States representatives for six days in January alone.

The meeting in Russian Federation is "nothing more than a fantasy".

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

"At the end of any peace deal, the decision-maker will be the government of Afghanistan", Ghani said.

While the Taliban have been leaking apparent details of negotiations with the USA, the State Department and White House have dismissed several claims made by the group regarding the recent talks.

They argue that Ghani seeks to spoil this rare opening for peace and that his resistance derives from a fear that if talks progress, he could lose his chance for five more years in power.

He called for the release of Taliban detainees and claimed that U.S. and its protectorate regime have detained tens of thousands of Afghans and Taliban in their secret and open prisons.

Such a meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians - including Karzai, who was appointed by the U.S. - is nearly unheard of. As the first speaker of the conference in Moscow, the former president stressed on the need for peace rather than defending the achievements of post-2001 Afghan governments.

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