Top Russian diplomat meets Taliban, encourages United States withdrawal

Clay Curtis
February 11, 2019

"To achieve a peace agreement, quite a number of issues have to be dealt with", Khalilzad said, stressing two top issues during talks with the Taliban: counterterrorism and a USA withdrawal.

Pakistan's role in the peace negotiations is a delicate one, with Islamabad seeking to avoid demonstrating the kind of broad influence over the Taliban that Washington has long accused it of having.

However, he emphasized that "a lot of work" still remains to be done to reach to a peace deal with the Taliban.

Pakistan, he said, favours inter-Afghan dialogue including between the Taliban and the government.

The meeting came after two days of talks between prominent Afghan figures and Taliban representatives in Moscow.

And this can not be achieved without the help of regional players, in particular Pakistan, Special US Representative Zalmay Khalilzad said in his maiden public appearance before a Washington audience some six months after he was entrusted with this task by the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Mujahid said that while the Taliban do not have a codified manifesto, their "clear" objectives were the end of the occupation of Afghanistan, establishment of an Islamic government, establishment of peace and security, reconstruction of Afghanistan and the provision of administrative services.

The possibility of a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan has created a new wave of uncertainty in the region, "which poses yet another challenge to Pakistan", he warned. Because peace agreement can allow withdrawal. Karzai also dismissed U.S. claims about providing security for Afghanistan.

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The United States (US) military has stepped up its airstrikes and special operation raids on Taliban leaders and fighters in Afghanistan to give American negotiators leverage in peace talks with the militant group, The New York Times reported Saturday.

In recent months, President Donald Trump has suggested withdrawing almost half of the American forces in Afghanistan, but USA officials have said he has thus far resisted that urge, largely in an effort to back Khalilzad's negotiations.

If there is no progress towards peace, he added, "the elections will take place, and we are doing what we can to support the preparations for a credible election".

But the message that they have given me is that they understand that they can not go back.

European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker has said in a statement on Thursday, talks with British Prime Minister Theresa May were constructive and robust, but the European Union (EU) will not reopen negotiations on the Brexit deal.

"They understand that they can not go back" to how things were, the U.S. negotiator said. The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, accusing the Taliban of harboring Osama Bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in NY and Washington.

In contrast, his assessment of the 18-year US-led military campaign in Afghanistan was far less positive.

Noting that Mullah Baradar, now based in Doha, was already facilitating the US-Taliban talks, the US envoy said that his role had also been recognised by former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai and his successor President Ashraf Ghani.

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