A group of Afghan “power-brokers” and the Taliban recently ended their two day marathon talks in Moscow. According to media reports, both the parties were able to find “common ground” after the talks concluded.
The meeting was significant as it was a continuation of the “peace process” that was recently started between the US and the Taliban. The process has been especially accelerated since Zalmay Khalilzad has taken over the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, after his appointment by US President Trump in September last year.
Even though the meeting was seen by many as a positive development, the insurgent group has so far refused to meet the Ghani government which it calls a “US puppet”.
My observations from DC:— Saad Mohseni (@saadmohseni) February 6, 2019
1. Peace efforts take priority over everything else (re Afg)
2. All roads lead to Khalilzad's office
3.The WH more concerned with the end than the means ie govt negotiating is less important than getting a result
4. Bipartisan support for ending the war
During the talks, there were scenes of the Taliban representatives and the Afghan delegation, which also included former President Karzai, eating and praying together. These images were significant as the Taliban had previously fought against the Karzai regime in Kabul.
Picture worth a thousand words!— Danyal Gilani (@DanyalGilani) February 6, 2019
Members of the #Taliban & key Afghan leaders, including former president Hamid Karzai offering salat together on the sidelines of their talks in Moscow regarding the future of #Afghanistan. (Pic shared by a friend). pic.twitter.com/z3uxiY7tpZ
Karzai, after the meeting, said that both the delegations had agreed to a nine point memorandum of understanding, at the President Hotel in Moscow, with broader points calling for “peace, stability and an Afghanistan free of foreign forces”.
Moreover, the Taliban and its lead representative, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, also said that the meeting was “very successful” and both the parties had agreements on a “lot of points”.
Previously, the Taliban had claimed that the US had agreed on a troops’ withdrawal timeline in Afghanistan. The Russian state news agency RIA Novosti had reported, citing a Taliban source, had reported that the U.S. had promised to withdraw half of its troops by April.
However, Khalilzad, in a tweet today, refuted these claims suggesting that no timeline had been set.
In recent days, I’ve heard some individual Taliban officials claim we have a troop withdrawal timetable for Afghanistan. Today, they correctly retracted that claim. To be clear: no troop withdrawal timetable exists.— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) February 7, 2019
The recent meeting in Moscow also suggests that tensions still exist in Kabul, when it comes to peace talks, as the Ghani government feels being side-lined from the peace process. Even though the Ghani government had refused to attend the Moscow meeting, other political groups did attend the event.