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NATO sees US-Taliban talks as best way forward, hopes Afghan govt included – Stoltenberg

Washington, Apr 4 (GCCurrentAffairs) The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) considers the talks between Washington and the Taliban as the best way forward for Afghanistan and hopes that the Afghan government will soon be included in the process, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

“The talks between the United States and Taliban are the best way forward,” Stoltenberg said. “We don’t know whether it will succeed, but we strongly support those efforts.”

Landmark negotiations between the Taliban movement, one of the key warring parties in the Afghan conflict, and US officials kicked off in the Qatari capital of Doha in late February. As of mid-March the sides managed to concede to a draft agreement on the Taliban’s counterterrorism assurances and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan that have been assisting national forces in their anti-terrorist efforts for almost 18 years now.

The Taliban has thus far refused to engage in talks directly with the Afghan government, even as it has begun peace negotiations with the United States.

“I just hope that we will see more progress in negotiations and, of course, also we need as soon as possible to include the Afghan government,” Stoltenberg said. “A part of peace process has to be Afghan reconciliation. There is no way you can get that without including the Afghan government.”

Stoltenberg noted that the alliance has not made any decision on leaving the country.

“We will make decisions together as US-NATO allies on any adjustments or presence posture together, and when the tine is right, then we will of course also leave together. When that is, it is not possible to say,” he said.

Russia has also served as a facilitator for consultations on Afghanistan. In early February, Moscow hosted an intra-Afghan meeting albeit without representatives of the Afghan government. The Taliban have vehemently refused to engage in direct talks with the Afghan government.

Earlier in March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that US Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad, who leads the US-Taliban talks, periodically meets with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov. Lavrov said such meetings are a good thing to unite existing efforts and help Afghans start a national dialogue to end the conflict in their country.

The Taliban movement has been one of the major forces opposing the Afghan government in the latter’s long-standing confrontation with various rebel and terrorist groups.

In 1996, the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, and the United States deployed troops to the country in 2001 to fight the al-Qaeda terror group (banned in Russia) in retaliation for the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on US soil.

The US troops eventually overthrew the Taliban, saying that the country had become a safe haven for al-Qaeda, while the group was in power.

While most of US troops left Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the United States continues to maintain a military presence on the ground to support Afghan forces in combating terrorism.

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Via UNI-India

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