MOSCOW: After two days of talks in Moscow, the Taliban and prominent Afghan politicians said that they had charted a broad road map for ending the war in Afghanistan, It is structured around the withdrawal of American forces from the country and the Taliban’s commitment to citizens’ fundamental rights.
Hamid Karzai, the former president of Afghanistan and the leader of the politicians’ delegation, declared the talks a “big achievement” that would help push toward “peace, stability and an Afghanistan free of foreign forces.”
The meeting, at the Kremlin-owned President Hotel, was the first significant public contact between the Taliban and prominent Afghans in years, with the Islamist insurgents presenting more detail on some of their positions, including on women’s rights.
“On the issue of the peace process, we respect the views of all parts of society, including the politicians,” said Samim Arif, a spokesman for Mr. Ghani. “But the ownership and the leadership of the peace process is the authority of the Afghan government.”
And the final statement released at the end of the talks lacked details and, reflecting the conflicting views of the participants, proposed no timeline for an American withdrawal. Instead, it laid out a basic vision for a post-peace Afghanistan.
Its nine points included a commitment to a strong and inclusive central government, and assurances that citizens’ fundamental rights — particularly women’s — will be protected.
The participants also called for trust-building measures to expand the peace talks, which so far have been between the Americans and the Taliban. Such measures could include the release of prisoners “who are elderly or ill” or have “little of their term left” and the removal of insurgents’ names from sanctions lists, the statement said.
“We saw opportunities in their sincerity and flexibility that the talks necessary for peace, which in the past would only get to general contours, can now be moved to details,” said Omar Zakhilwal, a former Afghan cabinet minister and ambassador who participated in the talks.
Mr. Zakhilwal said the Taliban representatives had shown “a genuine desire for peace, and we saw flexibility in their positions,” particularly in private discussions held away from the cameras.
The discussions in Moscow came two weeks after Taliban and American diplomats announced significant progress in six days of negotiations in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain an office. Both sides said they had agreed in principle to a framework on two fundamental issues — that the Taliban would not allow terror groups such as Al Qaeda to use Afghan soil for attacks, and that the United States would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan.
After the Doha negotiations, Taliban sources suggested they and the Americans had already agreed to a timeline for withdrawal of about half of the 14,000 American troops in Afghanistan.
On the sidelines of the Moscow meeting, the deputy head of the Taliban delegation, Abdul Salam Hanafi, said the Americans had told them in Doha that half of their troops would withdraw before the end of April.
His claim was rejected by both the United States Embassy and the American military command in Kabul.
“Don’t stay forever, but don’t rush,” Wahidullah Sabawoon, a former commander of the anti-Soviet Islamist fighters known as mujahedeen, and a participant in the Moscow talks, said of the American military.
Mr. Sabawoon said it would take time to rebuild the country without foreign troops to ensure at least a measure of security.