Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has on Wednesday that the way had been paved for more serious peace talks with the Taliban.
The statement comes two days after a meeting was held between heads and some members of the negotiating teams in Doha and the meeting reportedly focused on the continuation of the negotiations.
In a meeting with members of Afghanistan’s parliament on Wednesday, Ghani said that the move by the NATO alliance to hold off on a decision about the troop pullout will help the Afghan peace process.
“The decision by NATO sends a big message,” said Ghani.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar has traveled to Moscow to discuss the peace talks.
“The purpose of this trip is to enhance bilateral relations and to strengthen regional consensus on the Afghan peace,” said Gran Hewad, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
His trip comes five days after the MoFA reacted to recent remarks by Russian envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, who said he favors an inclusive and transitional coalition government in Afghanistan and that the Taliban has not violated their deal with the United States.
MoFA said that some remarks by Mr. Kabulov were "not based on realities in Afghanistan" and in some ways were contrary to official statements by the Russian Federation, which Kabul sees as a "friend."
The ministry said that the unjustifiable exaggerations of “a forbidden group in Russia” is in contravention of Russia’s willingness to fight against the threat of terrorism and extremism in the region and to achieve lasting peace based on the demand of Afghans. The ministry added that such remarks do not match the two countries’ mutual interests.
The ministry said that the Afghan government is a UN member and it enjoys diplomatic relations with all countries, including Russia, and is fulfilling all its international commitments as a responsible government.
Contrary to Mr. Kabulov’s claims, the Afghan government has never delayed the peace talks, but it was the Taliban who left the negotiating table, said the ministry.
MoFA said that Kabulov’’s remarks on the Taliban’s controlling three-fourth of the country’s territory are incorrect, adding that “conducting terrorist attacks and killing the people in different areas does not mean they are controlling those areas.”
This comes a day after Uzbekistan’s foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov met senior Afghan officials in Kabul including president Ghani and the head of the High Council of National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah and discussions were held around peace.
Sources close to the Taliban said the group's distance from the peace talks is due to the continued presence of Taliban names on the UN blacklist, uncertainty around the fate of the Taliban prisoners and uncertainty around assessments of Washington of the Doha agreement.
German Cabinet to Extend Afghanistan Mission Into 2022
The cabinet in Berlin will give the green light on Wednesday for an extension of Germany’s military mission in Afghanistan until Jan 31, 2022, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
The current parliamentary mandate for the German operation with up to 1,300 troops expires at the end of March while the new US government is reviewing a 2020 agreement with the Taliban which called for foreign troops to withdraw by May 1.
A premature withdrawal of NATO troops could jeopardize peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, Kramp-Karrenbauer warned, adding NATO troops needed to prepare for Taliban violence should they stay beyond the end of April.
Last week, the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said at end of the two NATO defense ministers meetings in Brussels that the military alliance will only leave Afghanistan when security conditions on the ground allow it.
Stoltenberg said that at this stage, the alliance has not made a final decision about a troop presence in Afghanistan.
“At this stage, we have made no final decision on the future of our presence, but, as the May 1 deadline is approaching, NATO Allies will continue to closely consult and coordinate in the coming weeks,” said Stoltenberg at a press conference in Brussels.
On February 29 last year, former US President Donald Trump struck a peace agreement with the Taliban under which Washington agreed foreign troops would leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in return for conditions including cutting ties with Al-Qaeda and opening peace talks with Afghan sides.
But President Joe Biden's administration has said it would review the deal, with the Pentagon accusing the Taliban of not meeting their commitment to reduce violence as agreed in the Doha deal.
The Taliban in turn has accused the US of breaching the agreement and insisted it will continue its "fight" if foreign troops do not leave Afghanistan by May.
Earlier this month, a bipartisan study group assigned by US Congress called on President Joe Biden’s administration to slow the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, remove the May 1 exit deadline and instead reduce the number of forces only as security conditions improve in the country.