Taliban delegation visits Russia as Trump says Afghan talks are dead

Taliban delegation visits Russia as Trump says Afghan talks are dead
US President Donald Trump said talks with the Taliban were dead after an American soldier was killed in a bombing in Afghanistan.
2 min read
14 September, 2019
The Taliban have headed to Russia twice in 2019 [Getty]

A Taliban negotiating team arrived in Moscow on Friday, days after US President Donald Trump said a prospective peace deal with the Taliban was "dead".

A Taliban official confirmed to AP that a delegation had visited Moscow for talks, following a report from Russia's TASS news agency that reported the Taliban's Qatar-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as saying the delegation had held consultations with Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin's envoy for Afghanistan.

The Taliban team was being led by Mullah Sher Mohammad Stanikzai, AP reported.

An unidentified Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told Russia's Interfax news service that the meeting in Russia underlined the necessity of renewing talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.

It was the Taliban's first international visit after talks with the US collapsed this week, following the earlier killing of an American soldier in Afghanistan in a bombing.

Trump had called off negotiations and cancelled a meeting in a meeting over the weekend, although the Taliban have since said they want to renew talks with Washington.

Trump said he wanted to have with Afghan government leaders and the Taliban at the Camp David presidential retreat, but cancelled the meeting.

Shaheen told the Taliban's official website on Tuesday that the group was still communicating with US negotiators to decide on the next steps.

The Taliban shura, or leadership council, had opposed its officials from accepting an offer from Trump's peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to attend the planned Camp David summit.

The Taliban wanted a peace agreement with the US signed and witnessed by foreign ministers of several countries, including Russia, Shaheen said.

He added that the Taliban wanted Qatar to announce the agreement before any Camp David meeting.

Moscow has been accused of aiding the Taliban as a safeguard against a burgeoning Islamic State group, which has close ties to Islamist militant factions in Central Asia.

Russia has stepped up its military presence in Central Asia and has claimed thousands of IS fighters were in northern Afghanistan.

Moscow has hosted meetings between the Taliban and prominent Afghan personalities twice in 2019.

Trump has been keen to scale-back and ultimately end the US presence in Afghanistan.

A deal with the Taliban would allow US troops to withdraw in exchange for assurances that the Afghan movement wouldn't allow terror groups to set up a presence there.