Militant attack kills 10 policemen in northern Afghan province

Arturo Kim
February 7, 2019

The insurgents' manifesto, outlined in Moscow before some of Afghanistan's most influential leaders, comes a week after the Taliban held unprecedented six-day talks with United States negotiators in Doha about ending the 17-year war.

Ghani's allies in Washington insist Afghans should lead the peace process, and ostensibly the months-long push by the United States to engage the Taliban has been aimed at convincing them to negotiate with Kabul.

Noor on Sunday said the meeting was "a pathway towards strengthening the peace efforts led by the US" while Atmar described it as "an important step towards intra-Afghan peace talks".

The Russian Embassy in Kabul said the gathering was an intra-Afghan dialogue to discuss ways of ending the war.

Opening the talks, former president Hamid Karzai said he hopes Pakistan and Afghanistan can forge good relations going forward and that the Moscow talks will end on a positive note.

In a statement ahead of the Moscow meet, the network said they would not accept peace at the cost of their freedoms and urged delegates to defend the rights of half of Afghanistan's 35 million people.

A cease-fire and the withdrawal of thousands of US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation troops is on the table after Washington secured earlier assurances from the Taliban that they would not allow groups such as Al-Qaeda and Islamic State to attack the United States and its allies. "They can say what they want", the Afghan president added. The Taliban closed girls' schools and banned women from working under their regime, but have indicated they could loosen some guidelines in line with Sharia law.

"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.

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Ghani's call to Pompeo seemed an attempt to re-assert his government's role in negotiations he has sharply criticized at times as one-sided.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, head of the Taliban delegation in Moscow, also contradicted Hanafi's earlier comments on an American withdrawal saying no date had yet been fixed.

USA and Taliban delegations met in Qatar in January and are due to meet again this month.

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.

Robert Palladino, deputy spokesman at the State Department, said Pompeo reaffirmed the US commitment to achieving a lasting peace.

The absence of Afghan government representatives at the talks have underscored the Taliban's hostility toward Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's increasingly marginalised administration in Kabul. "It is therefore required that these baseless sanctions and reward lists, which are used as a pressure tool for their interests, should be finished so that representatives of the Islamic Emirate are able to participate in peace talks in different places without any hurdle", he said.

Now the exact timetable for the pullout must be decided, but the Taliban wants to see this happen in months, he said.

The Moscow conference is the Taliban's most significant engagement with Afghan leaders in recent memory - and unique for the militants who banned television when they ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. "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". The present Afghan military forces and the Taliban need to cooperate in this regard, which will not be easy to accomplish. The meeting was held at a Kremlin-owned hotel.

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