SUNDAY TIMES WEB DESK: The extraordinary two-day gathering in Moscow saw Taliban leaders stand shoulder-to-shoulder with former president Hamid Karzai, who called the insurgents his “brothers” as both sides agreed to seek lasting peace.
No government official was invited to the roundtable, which saw heavyweight Afghan politicians and other sworn enemies of the Taliban praying and dining with the militants.
It was the second time President Ashraf Ghani was frozen out of such talks in recent weeks after the US held entirely separate discussions with the insurgents in Doha without Kabul.
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who headed the Taliban delegation, made a rare appearance in front of international media besides a smiling Karzai.
“This meeting was very successful,” the black-turbaned Taliban official told reporters, flanked by the former president who was appointed after US-led forces routed the Taliban in 2001.
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 complete peace in Afghanistan.”
All parties agreed to support the Doha peace talks with American negotiators that President Donald Trump described on Tuesday as “constructive”.
The nine-point statement issued on behalf of all parties 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.
Earlier Wednesday, a senior Taliban official told reporters the US had agreed to withdraw half its ground troops by the end of April — a claim refuted by NATO and the US State Department.