KABUL: The Taliban will send representatives to multilateral talks in Russia on war-torn Afghanistan this month, the militant group said on Tuesday, as the international community ratchets up efforts to end the 17-year conflict.
Moscow announced on Saturday it would host the meeting on November 9 to discuss ways to kick start peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.
In a statement posted on social media, the Taliban said it would dispatch “high-ranking” representatives from its political office in Qatar.
The Taliban last month appointed five former Guantanamo Bay detainees, who had been swapped for US soldier Bowe Bergdahl in 2014, to its political office.
They have the authorisation to “talk about peace”, a senior Taliban official told AFP.
The confirmation comes a day after Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, a government body responsible for reconciliation efforts with the militants, said it would send a delegation.
Moscow has also invited representatives from the United States as well as India, Iran, China, Pakistan and five former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
Pakistan, which has long been accused of providing support to the Afghan Taliban, would “definitely” attend, foreign ministry spokesman Muhammad Faisal told AFP. The US embassy in Kabul did not respond to an AFP request for comment. AFP
Moreover, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Afghanistan’s chances for peace were “greater now” than in many years, even as the Taliban step up attacks on Afghan forces, which are suffering record high casualties.
Despite the escalating violence, Stoltenberg struck a relatively optimistic tone during his unannounced visit to the Afghan capital. “The potential for peace is greater now than it has been in many years,” the NATO secretary general told a joint news conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Meanwhile, Taliban attacked a border outpost in western Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 20 government soldiers in the latest assault likely to compound fears that the security forces are facing an unsustainable casualty toll.
Sparsely populated Farah, on the border with Iran, has seen months of heavy fighting, with hundreds police and soldiers killed. The insurgents assaulted the border post manned by about 50 Afghan government soldiers before dawn, officials in the area said. Agencies