A Taliban delegation held talks with Russian officials in Moscow on Saturday. “The Russian president’s special representative for Afghanistan... Zamir Kabulov, hosted a Taliban delegation in Moscow,” Russian Foreign ministry spokesman said.
“The Russian side stressed the need to relaunch negotiations between the United States and the Taliban movement,” the spokesman said. “For their part, the Taliban confirmed their willingness to pursue dialogue with Washington,” he added. However, no date for the talks was given.
This marks Taliban’s first international visit following the collapse of talks with Washington. Moscow has twice this year hosted meetings between the Taliban and prominent Afghan personalities.
Moscow has been accused of aiding the Taliban as a safeguard against a burgeoning Islamic State affiliate closely linked to the Central Asian terrorist group, the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan.
Earlier, US President Donald Trump tweeted that secret meetings that were to be held at Camp David with Taliban leaders and the Afghan president had been cancelled following a bombing in Kabul last week. “They were coming to the United States tonight. Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, they admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great soldiers, and 11 other people,” Trump tweeted about the Taliban.
The Taliban have continued bloody assaults on civilians and security forces even as their leaders meet with U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Qatar to negotiate an end to nearly 18 years of war.
The United States in the negotiations has also sought Taliban guarantees that Afghanistan will no longer be a launching pad for terror attacks such as the September 11, 2001, attack on the US by al-Qaida. The Taliban government had harbored al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.
Some 20,000 US and NATO forces remain in Afghanistan after formally ending their combat role in 2014.
Fearing a return to power of the hardline Taliban, many worry the deal and subsequent negotiations will lead to a reduction in personal freedoms and limited women’s rights that modern Afghans have grown accustomed to.
US troops were first sent to Afghanistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda, which was sheltered by the former Taliban regime. Washington now wants to end its military involvement—the longest in its history—and has been talking to the Taliban since at least 2018.