Two days of unprecedented talks in Moscow with high-ranking Afghan politicians end with disagreements over women’s rights and demands for a new constitution.
The Taliban on Wednesday hailed two days of unprecedented talks with Afghan politicians as “very successful”, despite disagreements over women’s rights and its demands for an Islamic constitution in the war-torn country.
The extraordinary gathering in Moscow was the Taliban’s most significant with Afghan politicians in years, and concluded with both sides agreeing to future talks and ensuring a “durable and dignified peace” for the people of Afghanistan.
No government official was invited to the roundtable, which saw heavyweight leaders – including former president Hamid Karzai – and other sworn enemies of the Taliban praying with the fighters.
It was the second time President Ashraf Ghani was frozen out of Taliban peace talks in recent weeks, after the United States held entirely separate discussions with the militants in Doha without Kabul.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, head of the Taliban delegation, made a rare appearance in front of international media alongside Karzai after the talks.
“This meeting was very successful,” the black-turbaned Taliban official told reporters.
“We agreed on many points and I am hopeful that in future, we can succeed more further, and finally we can reach a solution.
We can find a complete peace in Afghanistan.”
A statement issued on behalf of all parties agreed to support peace talks in Doha with American negotiators, which President Donald Trump described on Tuesday as “constructive”.
Participants also agreed on the complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
A timetable for that exit was “not fixed so far… but we are negotiating this”, Stanikzai said.
TRT World spoke with Helena Malikyar, political analyst and historian, for more on ongoing peace talks.
US vowed to ‘withdraw half of troops’
Earlier, a Taliban official said that the United States had promised to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April during talks last month, RIA news agency reported, more than past estimates of the planned pullout.
“Yes, the Americans told us (last month) that they would withdraw half of their troops from the beginning of February to the end of April,” Abdul Salam Hanafi was quoted as saying by Russian news agency RIA.
The US State Department, however, said no timeline has been set for possible US troop drawdown in Afghanistan.
“We have not agreed to any timeline for a possible drawdown of troops and are not going to get into any other specific details of diplomatic conversations,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Taliban official’s comment came a day after President Trump told Americans his administration had accelerated talks for a political settlement in Afghanistan and would be able to reduce US troops there as negotiations advance to end America’s longest war.
US and Taliban delegations met in Qatar in January and are due to meet again in February.
A US official at last month’s meeting said significant progress was made, though more talks were needed on US demands for a Taliban ceasefire before any withdrawal and other issues.
Taliban’s Hanafi said Washington and the Taliban had also agreed that all foreign troops would eventually leave, and that Afghanistan would never be used as a base for attacks on the United States.
“The timeline (of the withdrawal) will be discussed at future meetings,” Hanafi said.
A US official said in December that Trump was planning to withdraw more than 5,000, or more than a third, of the 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan.
Taliban is making “nice statements” in Moscow but back home schools for girls are closed in majority of Taliban-controlled areas Fawzia Koofi, a member of Afghan parliament and one of the two women participating in ongoing “inter-Afghan” talks in Moscow, told TRT World.
She also said some 60,000 Afghan troops were killed in the last four years “fighting with terrorists”, rejecting US President Donald Trump’s remarks that Afghans were not fighting militants.
US can take part in ‘reconstruction’
Also on Wednesday, Taliban reiterated its long-held demand that all foreign troops get out of Afghanistan, rejecting a suggestion by US President Donald Trump of a lingering US focus on counter-terrorism after troops are drawn down.
“At the first step, we want all the foreign forces to leave and end the military presence in our country,” said Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for a Taliban office in Qatar and a member of a Taliban team now meeting Afghan opposition politicians in Moscow.
“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.