Political talks with Taliban key part of endgame, says United States commander

Americans now want less to do in region says scholar Vali Nasr at Adab Festival

Americans now want less to do in region says scholar Vali Nasr at Adab Festival

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said on Tuesday no peace deal between the Taliban and the United States could be finalised without involving his government as "the decision-maker".

Senior Afghan politicians, including former President Hamid Karzai, and a Taliban delegation held "fruitful" talks about the adoption of a new constitution, interim government and women rights at a meeting in Moscow.

But they're all trying to diminish the Kabul government in the lead-up to the elections, which will take place this summer. But he said that if the Moscow meeting creates "an opening for real peace talks, it would still be a step forward".

The absent President Ghani said in remarks broadcast by Afghanistan's largest private TV station that his government would be the "decision maker" in any peace deal: "Those who have gathered in Moscow have no executive authority".

Ghani and de facto prime minister Abdullah Abdullah have urged the Taliban to negotiate with Kabul, saying all Afghans should agree on the need for peace and a troop withdrawal.

The meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government, which has criticized the gathering.

Experts say regional powers - including U.S. foes Iran and Russian Federation - are angling for an audience with the Taliban, who are already outlining their vision for Islamic rule once foreign troops leave.

US President Donald Trump referred to the peace talks in his annual State of the Union address on Tuesday, describing the talks as "constructive" and that Washington would be able to reduce the number of US troops and focus on counter-terrorism efforts as they made progress.

The Taliban promised an "inclusive Islamic system" and opened the door for allowing women greater freedoms, but also demanded a new, Islam-based constitution. The Taliban closed girls' schools and banned women from working under their regime, but have indicated they could loosen some guidelines in line with Sharia law.

"I think all sides are ready for a compromise. It is a good start", said Muhammad Ghulam Jalal, the head of an Afghan diaspora group who hosted the meeting.

Jarring images of Karzai and other leaders joining Taliban officials in prayer and breaking bread in Russian Federation sparked some anger back home.

Those efforts culminated in an unprecedented six days of talks between the USA and the Taliban in Doha in January.

"Unfortunately, 11 security forces, including 10 members of the local police and one member of the local uprising force, were killed and five others injured", said Safdar Muhsini, the Provincial Council Chief for Baghlan.

"Day by day, the security situation is getting worse in and around Kunduz city", said Ayubi, adding there are fears the city could again fall into the hands of the Taliban as it did briefly on two occasions in recent years - in September 2015 and in October 2016.

In a separate attack in neighbouring Baghlan province, Taliban militants stormed an isolated check-post of the Afghan local police at 2 a.m.

"They arrived there late, fought back and managed to get the checkpoint under control", he added.

Earlier on Monday, the Taliban targeted a local pro-government militia in a village in northern Samangan province, killing 10 people, including a woman, said Sediq Azizi, spokesman for the provincial governor.

"I want to tell them (Taliban) that their wives have also been a victim and women were sacrificed on this side too and eventually the women will not be willing to make more sacrifices", said Laila Jaffari, one of the female delegates.

According to Azizi, the Taliban targeted local villagers, including women and children.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed its attack in Kunduz killed 30 personnel of the Afghan National Army.

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