Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, June 25th, 2019

Taliban and Russia: Foreign Forces Must leave Afghanistan

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Taliban and Russia: Foreign Forces Must leave Afghanistan

A group of Afghan politicians informally led by former President Hamid Karzai, members of the Taliban led by the deputy leader of the group Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and also some Russian officials attended a ceremony in Moscow to mark the 100th years of Afghanistan-Russia diplomatic relations. The Meetings between the Taliban delegation and political figures were not formally associated with the government and have been seen as a way of preparing the way for full negotiations later. Meanwhile, the contacts are regarded with deep suspicion by many Afghan officials who see them as undermining the legitimacy of the government while reinforcing the position of the Taliban.
Mullah Baradar, who was heading a 14-member Taliban delegation, was the center of attention during Tuesday’s meeting in Moscow. He is known as a co-founder of the Islamist Taliban and is believed to have played a central role in organizing insurgent activities after the U.S.-led military invasion of Afghanistan 17 years ago. Baradar was traveling through Pakistan in 2010 when American security operatives, together with local counterparts, arrested him in Karachi. The insurgent commander was then placed in Pakistani custody until late last year Washington requested from Islamabad to free Baradar hoping to play role in the peace process that U.S. diplomats initiated with the Taliban late last fall to seek an end to the Afghan war.
The Taliban had already clarified in a statement issued late Tuesday that no Kabul government representatives would participate in the intra-Afghan conference, and insurgent delegates will interact only with Afghan politicians as well as civil society representatives. The Taliban refuse to engage in any peace talks with anyone associated with the U.S.-backed Kabul government, dismissing them as “stooges” installed by foreign “occupation” forces.
However, some of the top leaders including the Former President Hamid Karzai, Chairman of HPC Karim Khalili, CE of Jamiat-e-Islami party Atta Mohammad Noor, Deputy CEO Mohammad Mohaqiq, former National Security Advisor to President Ashraf Ghani Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Ambassador Latif Bahand, former Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, former Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Deputy of Hezb-e Jumbesh Abdullah Qarluq, Hamid Gailani, ex-lawmaker Fawzia Kofi, and some other politicians participated in the meeting.
Hamid Karzai called for Russia to play a greater role in the Afghan peace process. “Afghanistan expects that the Russian Federation act independently and help Afghanistan towards peace alongside support from the United States, China and other countries involved in the issue such as Germany to play an effective role in this sphere,” said Karzai. “Afghanistan has good relations with Russia. From the Afghan people’s point of view, having an inclusive relation has many advantages and we want a friendly relationship with all countries, especially the countries of the region and the neighboring countries,” he said at the meeting. Karzai also called on the US and Russia to help Afghanistan to reach peace and stability.
The Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) Karim Khalili, emphasized the need for agreeing to “a dignified and just mechanism” for ending years of bloodshed in Afghanistan. Atta Mohammad Noor, the former governor of the northern province of Balkh and a leader of the Jamiat-e Islami party, said it was in the interests of all sides to establish a good understanding.“We want to have good relations with the Taliban and we expect peace from them,” he said. Muhammad Noor said the previous Moscow meeting had yielded “quite positive results.””We are for having good relations with our brothers, with the Taliban,” Noor said.”Let’s step back a little, embrace each other and create conditions for the start of peace.”
The meetings in Moscow come as months of direct peace negotiations between the United States and Taliban appear to have slowed down over the insurgent’s refusal to cease hostilities until all U.S.-led international forces withdraw from Afghanistan. While during this meeting once again Taliban and also Russia have jointly called for the withdrawal of U.S.-led coalition troops from Afghanistan, denouncing the foreign presence in the country as a major obstacle to Afghan peace. Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, made the his first public remarks in Moscow saying “The Islamic Emirate wants peace but the first step is to remove obstacles to peace and end the occupation of Afghanistan,” Baradar said, appearing openly on television in what appeared to be a calculated move to establish his legitimacy as one of the main public faces of the Taliban.
The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also urged foreign forces to leave Afghanistan. He underscored the importance of bilateral relations, saying Russia is ready to offer more help to Afghanistan to fight terrorist groups led by Islamic State and drug-trafficking networks. “This conflict in Afghanistan has no military solution and the only way to settle this issue is to rely on diplomacy and politics. We believe all foreign military [forces] should be withdrawn from the country and the society of Afghanistan should unite in finding a solution,” the Russian foreign minister stressed.”We believe that Afghanistan should stay united where all the ethnic groups can live peacefully. We hope that peace will settle in Afghanistan as soon as possible,” Lavrov added, saying that accelerated Afghan peace-building efforts recently initiated by Moscow are furthering the peace process.
Overall, this shows that Moscow is gaining more influence in the ongoing process while the recent sixth round of talks between US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban ended in Doha this month with no tangible progress cited by the negotiating teams. As aforementioned, the Taliban still insist that foreign forces must leave Afghanistan before it can agree to peace, but the US refuses to agree to withdrawal until the Taliban put in place security guarantees, a ceasefire, and other commitments including an “intra-Afghan” dialogue with the Kabul government and other Afghan representatives.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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