U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has secretly held “around ten” round of talks with Taliban representatives, the Russian government claimed on Monday, contradicting media reports that there have only been two meetings.
Before the Kremlin’s allegation, there had only been two publicly known meetings between U.S officials and the Taliban in the terrorist group’s political office in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
“We have been told they (the Taliban) held around ten secret consultations with Americans. This is a normal process when countries, and we want to believe in this, are trying to stimulate both parties, the Taliban and the Afghan government, to sit on the negotiating table without prerequisites,” Kabulov revealed.
The Moscow-held event on November 9 attracted delegates from a body appointed by the U.S. backed government in Kabul and the Taliban as well as officials from several nations, including the United States.
Pentagon officials have accused Russia of lending support to the Afghan Taliban.
Currently, the U.S. Special Envoy on Afghan Reconciliation Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad is in south Asia, marking his second visit to the region. He arrived in south Asia last Thursday and is expected to return to the U.S. on November 20 after visiting Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar.
Khalilzad is one of the U.S. officials who met with the Taliban in Qatar last month during one of the two publicly known meetings between the Trump administration and terrorist group.
Taliban envoys also met Alice Wells, the U.S. State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, in July.
In recent months, the Trump administration has boosted its efforts to convince the Taliban to engage in peace negotiations in Kabul.
The U.S. administration has made “reconciliation” between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul the top priority of its strategy to end the war, the longest-ever U.S military intervention launched in 2001 in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the American homeland.
According to Kabulov, Amb. Khalilzad is expected to visit Moscow early next month to discuss Afghan peace efforts.
Referring to the Afghan peace conference, Kabulov reportedly noted that the meeting was a “unique” and broad international forum where Taliban representatives joined an official Afghan delegation for the first time since the war began in October 2001.
The goal of the conference was not to seek direct negotiations between warring Afghan sides, but was a “modest first step in that direction,” he stressed.
“They (Taliban) have outlined their plan of action in detail. [They] said they will be ready to speak with the Afghan government only after fixing a timetable for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan with the U.S.,” Kabulov added.
The terrorist group, “as confidence-building measures under a preliminary plan,” reportedly demanded “that all political prisoners be freed and anti-Taliban sanctions, which were imposed back in 1997, be lifted,” the presidential envoy said.
Kabulov said representatives and officials from Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, Pakistan, the United States, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan participated in the Moscow-hosted event.
Referring to Kabul’s assertion that Afghan delegates who attended the meeting were not representing the government, Kabulov noted that the Afghan ambassador to Moscow joined the Afghan delegation at the table, making it “an official representative” of Afghanistan.