The Taliban Is Actually Entering Peace Talks — In Moscow

Code Red News
GHŌR, Afghanistan (May 28, 2012) – Former Taliban fighters line up to handover their Rifles to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan during a reintegration ceremony at the provincial governor’s compound. The re-integrees formally announced their agreement to join the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program during the ceremony.
Lt. J. G. Joe Painter/US Navy

The Taliban has accepted an invitation from the Russian government to join multilateral talks next month covering the future of Afghanistan that the U.S. is not likely to take part in, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

The Sep. 4 meeting in Moscow, which is also expected to host representatives from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, and China, will be "in line with efforts to launch the process of national reconciliation in Afghanistan," said Zamir Kabulov, Russia's presidential representative to Afghanistan, in an interview with Interfax.

A spokesman for the Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Russia has offered diplomatic and some military support to the Afghan government over the past several years. It has also been accused by the US of supplying arms to the Taliban such as machine guns, small arms, and night vision goggles — a charge that Moscow strenuously denies.

The U.S. is among the 12 countries that have been invited to the upcoming talks. The State Department said it would not be attending the meeting (The U.S. declined to attend a similar meeting last year which did not include Taliban representatives).

"As a matter of principle, we support Afghan-owned and –led initiatives to advance a peace settlement in Afghanistan," a State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose. "Based on the previous meetings in the 'Moscow Format,' we believe this initiative is unlikely to yield any progress toward that end."

Still, the Afghan government welcomed the Moscow meeting as "good news" that would allow the Taliban and the Afghan government to meet face-to-face to "find a solution to the problem of Afghanistan," Abdul Kayum Kuchai, Afghanistan's Ambassador to Russia, told Interfax.

In July, Senior State Department officials held face-to-face talks with the Taliban in Qatar without representatives of the Afghan government present.

News of negotiation efforts comes days after the U.S. and Afghan forces repulsed a major Taliban offensive in Ghazni and elsewhere over the past week, which resulted in the deaths of more than 400 Afghan soldiers and police officers, according to The New York Times. And despite an apparent shift in strategy implemented under President Donald Trump that is now a year old, the most recent Pentagon Inspector General's report shows that little has changed on the ground.

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KABUL (Reuters) - The Islamic State (IS) militant group claimed responsibility on Sunday for a suicide blast at a wedding reception in Afghanistan that killed 63 people, underlining the dangers the country faces even if the Taliban agrees a pact with the United States.

The Saturday night attack came as the Taliban and the United States try to negotiate an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for a Taliban commitment on security and peace talks with Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.

Islamic State fighters, who first appeared in Afghanistan in 2014 and have since made inroads in the east and north, are not involved in the talks. They are battling government and U.S.-led international forces and the Taliban.

The group, in a statement on the messaging website Telegram, claimed responsibility for the attack at a west Kabul wedding hall in a minority Shi'ite neighborhood, saying its bomber had been able to infiltrate the reception and detonate his explosives in the crowd of "infidels".

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