USA ‘vowed’ to withdraw half its troops from Afghanistan, says Taliban

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The talks in Moscow hosted by an Afghan diaspora group in Russian Federation - which are separate from the United States negotiations - start Tuesday and would canvass the "end of occupation, enduring peace in homeland and establishment of an intra-Afghan Islamic system of governance", the Taliban said. The delegation will be led by Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, former head of Taliban's Qatar office.

The Moscow talks also were expected to be attended by delegates from Afghan diasporas from the countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Europe, as well as representatives from Iran and Pakistan.Afghanistan's chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, said the Afghan government should be at the center of any peace talks, adding that Kabul "would prefer the Moscow meeting had a different shape".

A Taliban official said on Wednesday that no timetable had been agreed with the USA government for the partial withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, and that negotiations were still underway.

The push for peace comes as the Taliban, ousted by US -led forces in 2001, have staged near daily attacks and are in control of or contesting districts across almost half the country. This latest development has further isolated the Kabul government in peace negotiations.

"The Moscow meeting is nothing more than a fantasy".

The attack occurred on the outskirts of Kunduz City and set off a firefight between militants and security forces that lasted from 2 a.m.to 4 a.m. local time, according to Pajhwok Afghan News, citing Deputy Chairman of Provincial Council Safiullah Amiri.

Ghani's administration shunned the February 5-6 Russian-hosted initiative, which came after the USA announced it was close to reaching a framework agreement with the Taliban on ending the 18-year Afghan war, including on the withdrawal of foreign troops.

The unprecedented gathering saw the Taliban outline their vision for Afghanistan - including rules around women and the adoption of an Islamic constitution - before heavyweights, including former president Hamid Karzai, in televised talks. After years of being on the fringes since the invasion of the Americans and their allies ousted them from power, the Taliban are now gaining acceptance as legitimate stakeholders in the Afghan political process.

2001: Taliban are toppled in US-led invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 attacks in the US.

With eye on Afghanistan talks, Trump vows to stop 'endless wars'
Officially, Iraq says there are no American bases on its soil - only instructors deployed at Iraqi bases. Trump offered no specifics about when he would bring home the 14,000 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan.

Since his appointment last September, U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been holding separate negotiations with the Taliban.

According to the Press service of the Uzbek Foreign Ministry, Yamamoto stressed that the United Nations and its institutions, particularly the UNAMA, welcome and support the consistent policy of Uzbekistan, led by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, to start the peace process in Afghanistan.

Ghani's rivals could see an opportunity in these various Taliban talks to undermine his leadership, analysts say, ahead of presidential elections slated for July.

The leader of the Taliban's peace negotiations with the USA says the insurgents do not want to seize "the whole country by [military] power".

Trump offered no specifics about when he would bring home the 14,000 USA troops in Afghanistan but said progress in negotiations with the Taliban would enable a troop reduction and a "focus on counter-terrorism".

The Russian government has denied involvement in arranging the disputed huddle in Moscow, which was held at the Kremlin-owned President Hotel.

He has repeatedly said that all Afghans should agree to end hostilities but that he would not "surrender to a temporary peace deal".

The Moscow talks follow a series of direct negotiations between Taliban members and USA special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad amid a renewed push by President Donald Trump to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Ahead of his journey, Karzai, the former Afghan President who has forged closer ties with Moscow in recent years, said he will carry to the Taliban a message of peace, unity and sovereignty and will emphasise that all Afghan men and women need to progress. "No one can decide without the consent of the Afghan people", Ghani separately told Afghan broadcaster Tolo News.

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