Half of U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan by May 1: Taliban
07 February, 2019, 04:36 | Author: Ted Wilson
The raid on the base in northern Kunduz province came as representatives of the Taliban were to hold meetings in Moscow with prominent Afghan figures, including former President Hamid Karzai, opposition leaders and tribal elders - but not Kabul government officials.
President Donald Trump said on Tuesday his administration had accelerated negotiations to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan with groups including the Taliban, and, as they make progress, would be able to reduce the USA troop presence there.
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.
United States officials say any withdrawal is contingent on a cease-fire - something the Taliban insists on happening first - and that the movement must be prepared to enter talks with the Afghan government to help create a durable peace.
"Peace talks with the Taliban continue, but (the Defense Department) has not received a directive to change the force structure in Afghanistan", he said.
It was hard to find any influential critic of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Tuesday - not because he has become popular among his opponents overnight, but because nearly all government critics are in Moscow to meet with Taliban representatives.
It was based on a commitment to withdraw USA forces from the country, and a guarantee by the Taliban not to allow worldwide jihadist groups to use Afghanistan as a base in the future. Former Afghan president's adviser Zia Massoud could also attend the event.
The group was notorious for its treatment of women, banning a lot of them to work or go to school.
The US has issued no details on any potential withdrawal plan. Several had formed part of Ghani's own government until recently.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, centre, speaks to United States peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, third left, at the presidential palace in Kabul.
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At talks last month, the Taliban agreed with the USA on the withdrawal of "all foreign troops from Afghanistan" and "that the soil of Afghanistan would not be used against them", said Stanikzai.
"Ultimately, we need to get to a Taliban-Afghanistan discussion", Votel told USA lawmakers on February 5.
Afghan Foreign Ministry Spokesman Sebghatullah Ahmadi told VOA the Moscow meeting has no legitimacy and the government will not accept any possible outcome of the discussions.
A statement issued on behalf of all parties agreed to support peace talks in Doha with American negotiators, which President Donald Trump described on Tuesday as "constructive".
Robert Palladino, deputy spokesman at the State Department, said Pompeo reaffirmed the USA commitment to achieving a lasting peace.
Ghani also questioned the mechanism of the Moscow Talks and said: "With whom, what will they agree upon there?"
Taliban's chief negotiator said they do not intend to monopolize power after an end to foreign invasion but want to establish an Afghan inclusive Islamic system with the consent of all Afghans.
Like the Taliban, Moscow has been insisting on a pullout of US-led troops from Afghanistan.
After 17 years of war in Afghanistan, Trump praised "the unmatched valor" of USA forces.
Afghan officials have criticized Moscow for not upholding its pledges to facilitate direct talks between Kabul and the Taliban. "Let hundreds of such meetings be held". "Dissemination of western and non-Afghan and non-Islamic drama serials, paving way for immoral crimes, and encouraging women for violating Afghan customs are other instances that have been imposed on Afghan society under the name of women rights".
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