Taliban Kill Dozens of Afghan Forces as Disputed Peace Talks Open

Taliban Kill Dozens of Afghan Forces as Disputed Peace Talks Open

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 USA -backed President Ashraf Ghani at talks in Moscow. "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.

After almost two decades at war in Afghanistan, the United States seems to be seriously pursuing a negotiated peace agreement with the Taliban. Instead, the group's representatives have held meetings with U.S. officials in Qatar, during which they have agreed to not let terrorist outfits operating on Afghan soil to pose a threat to the USA, in return for American troops' withdrawal from the South Asian country.

"However, Pakistan's actions are often a source of frustration to the United States regional efforts in Afghanistan", Votel said.

He did not mention the Afghans who have died (24,000 civilians since 2009, and 45,000 members of the security forces in the last five years), let alone the nation's broader suffering in the world's deadliest conflict.

He said US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad consulted the Afghan government about his meeting last month with the Taliban and that the Afghan government was fully aware of what was happening at the US-Taliban meetings.

Instead, the Taliban chose to sit with the Afghan president's biggest rivals - among them former Afghan President Hamid Karzai who has been campaigning hard for more Russian involvement in Afghanistan.

"No power in the country can dissolve the government", said Ghani, who added he was ready to "stand and defend our country". He has held several meetings with the Taliban.

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Claiming credit for both onslaughts, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said in a statement that four checkpoints had been completely overrun. Hope for peace coexists with the fear that the U.S. will leave as carelessly as it boosted intervention in 2017, when civilian deaths surged due to increased air strikes.

"But after ending their military presence, their non-military teams can come and we need them too, they can come and take part in the reconstruction and development process", he said.

These follow last month's talks between USA and Taliban negotiators in Qatar, which reached a draft framework under which the United States would withdraw troops in exchange for guarantees that the country would not harbour terrorists.

But the meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government, which has criticized the gathering.

The US-Taliban talks have revolved around a pullout of foreign troops in return for a guarantee from the insurgents that Afghan soil will not be used against US interests by militant groups such as al-Qaeda and affiliates of Isis (Islamic State).

Unlike Moscow's landmark peace talks with the Taliban in November, no members of the Russian government - or any other government - were at Tuesday's meeting, although the Afghan organizers live in Moscow and have ties to Russian authorities. The insurgents recognize that while they may never be able to defeat the United States militarily, neither can the US completely pacify the insurgency. "Venue for negotiations and a communication site in the shape of an office is necessary for peace", he said, adding at present the Taliban have no open and formal address as a venue for negotiations which is a preliminary requirement. "No one can decide without the consent of the Afghan people", Ghani told Afghan broadcaster TOLOnews late Tuesday.

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