Taliban sit for second day with Afghan leaders in Moscow

Blanche Robertson
February 6, 2019

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.

Then there was the guest list, topped by Hamid Karzai, who served as Afghanistan's president from late 2001 until 2014 and still has enormous political stature.

The roundtable, which saw women defend their rights, comes a week after the insurgents held talks with U.S. negotiators in Doha about ending the 17-year war. The conference is convened by the Afghan diaspora and is not a follow-up to the Moscow format on settling the crisis in Afghanistan, the latest meeting of which was held in November 2018. He said the system in Afghanistan was established based on the will of the Afghan people and the constitution is one of the best in the region and that amendments to the constitution can be done only through legal channels.

"Those who have gathered in Moscow have no executive authority. So, what they want to show is that this government has no credibility, and that there should be an interim government and then elections to hopefully oust the government", Weinbaum continued.

Meanwhile, Taliban's chief negotiator Abbas Stanakzai said after Tuesday's session in Moscow that "ninety nine percent of the whole population of Afghanistan are Muslims".

As many as 41 Afghan security force personnel were killed and 15 others injured in attacks by Taliban militants at security check-posts in the country's Kunduz and Baghlan provinces, officials said on Tuesday.

Nur, who wields considerable influence in the country, said even though the constitution "belongs to the people ... it doesn't mean it can't be revised".

"We understand that the government needs to be part of these negotiations. We hope they'll be all there some day, with us", he told RT.

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The Taliban remains averse to any direct or indirect talks with the Kabul government, dismissing it as an American "puppet".

The New York Times reported that both Afghan representatives and Taliban members said Russian officials were playing a "major role behind the scenes".

Karzai, who was the first president of Afghanistan under United States and served till 2014, admitted the absence of Kabul officials from the Moscow talks was not helping the peace process, but remained hopeful. "I think their views were changed to some extent but we have to carefully watch the situation", she said.

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.

"We all of us agreed on the withdrawal of foreign forces and the establishment of an Islamic government and making a constitution - an Islamic constitution", he said. He also noted that representatives of the republic's government plan to meet with Russian Ambassador to Kabul Alexander Mantytsky on Tuesday.

"By getting the Afghan opposition to talk to the Taliban, Moscow risks fracturing an already fragile yet fledgeling peace process-and provoking a fresh crisis within an Afghan government already riven by deep divisions", Michael Kugelman, an analyst at the Wilson Center in Washington, told AFP.

Such a meeting between the Taliban and Afghan politicians - including Karzai, who was appointed by the U.S. - is nearly unheard of. "The withdrawal will start from February 1 and continue until end of April", Abdul Salam Hanefi, deputy head of the Taliban's political office in Doha, told reporters in Moscow. On February 25, U.S. and Taliban representatives are expected to meet again in Doha for a second round of separate peace talks.

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