The Taliban and Afghan politicians opposed to President Ashraf Ghani are set to meet in Russia this week.

Iran Press/Asia: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has been excluded from the Moscow meeting and past peace talks between the Taliban and the US.

The Taliban confirmed on Sunday, it will send a delegation to Russia for a two-day meeting starting on Tuesday in Moscow, Al Jazeera Media Network reported.

The Taliban refuses to recognize Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government.

Ghani has repeatedly called on the Taliban to begin talks with his government.

He was excluded from six days of discussions between the armed group and the US in Doha last month that reportedly sealed the outline of a peace deal.

"I call on the Taliban to... show their Afghan will, and accept Afghans' demand for peace, and enter serious talks with the Afghan government," Ghani said in a televised address from the presidential palace in Kabul last week.

"We should not forget that the victims of this war are Afghans and the peace process should also be Afghan-led... No Afghan wants foreign troops to remain in their country indefinitely. No Afghan wants to face suicide attacks in hospitals, schools, the mosques, and parks," Afghan President noted.

Among those who have confirmed their attendance in Moscow is Haneef Atmar, a former national security adviser who is running against Ghani in presidential elections set for July.

Atmar described the meeting as 'an important step towards intra-Afghan peace talks' in a tweet on Sunday.

Powerful ex-Governor Atta Muhammad Noor and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai - both Ghani rivals - are also attending.

The country's High Peace Council which is not officially part of the government, but is tasked with Taliban engagement said on Saturday it was not invited to Moscow.

The Taliban is scheduled to hold another round of peace talks with the US in Doha on February 25.

Last November, Moscow hosted a multilateral summit to try to find ways to end the war. Delegates from the peace council, the Taliban and officials from a dozen nations attended. The Taliban did not speak directly with the council members.

After meeting the Taliban in Doha last month, Washington's main negotiator, Zalmay Khalilzad said the US and the Taliban have a 'draft framework' in place for a deal which could pave the way for peace talks with the Afghan government.

However, major hurdles, including a ceasefire and a withdrawal of foreign forces, remain.

Despite all realities on the ground about US support for various terrorist groups, such as ISIS, US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, in one of his tweet claimed that his country is serious about pursuing peace in Afghanistan.

There are currently around 14,000 US troops on top of around 16,000 servicemen from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and partner states deployed in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has long been suffering from an unstable political, social, and security situation due to the activity of various terrorist and radical groups, including ISIS.

Earlier on December 30, 2018, 'Time' magazine reported that the former top US commander in Afghanistan said that withdrawing up to half the 14,000 American troops serving there would reduce the incentive for the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal after more than 17 years of war.105/201


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