Biden administration considering 6-month extension for United States troops in Afghanistan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov

The Taliban insurgents have largely stuck to a promise not to attack USA or other foreign troops since the agreement was struck in February a year ago, under Biden's predecessor, Donald Trump.

The Kremlin, which pulled Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989 after a bruising occupation, last week threw its weight behind Washington's initiative for an interim government that included the Taliban.

Moscow's attempt at mediation comes as talks in Doha between the Afghan government and the Taliban, still waging an insurgency, have stalled. And the President has been sharply critical of the details that Trump administration negotiated.

That idea is strongly opposed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who said elections are the only way to choose a government.

USA commanders are opposed to withdrawing now, warning that the Taliban could retake key cities, including the capital, Kabul, should American forces leave the Afghanistan Army to fight alone.

A joint statement issued after the meeting urged the Taliban to not launch "spring offensive" and also called on both sides to negotiate and conclude their peace agreement.

In an interview with ABC host George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America", Biden was asked if the USA will keep its commitment to withdraw US troops by May 1.

Washington also wants to jump-start the peace process and get the Taliban and Afghan government to agree to some form of power-sharing.

A US State Department spokesperson said the meeting in Russian Federation complemented the Doha process and that Washington was engaging with regional countries, though believed the peace process should be "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned at its core". That conference, which Ghani's government criticized as "little more than a political drama", paved the way for formal negotiations to start between Taliban and an Afghan government sanctioned delegation. "So, we're in consultation with our allies as well as the government, and that decision's - it's in process now", Biden told ABC.

The meeting in Moscow that brought together delegates from Pakistan, China, the US, Qatar and Turkey along with Afghan government and the Taliban representatives is the first of the three worldwide conferences planned ahead of the May 1 deadline set for the foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

In a Sunday meeting with Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan's special envoy on Afghanistan, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif "stressed the need to promote regional cooperation to help establish peace in Afghanistan and preserve achievements gained by Afghan people", according to the official Iranian news agency IRNA.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appointed a new personal envoy on Afghanistan and the region Wednesday.

The Taliban has denied that al Qaeda has members in Afghanistan, and has denied responsibility for the uptick in violence in the country. Representatives of Pakistan, Iran, India and China are also participating.

Last year, then-President Donald Trump negotiated with the Taliban to yank USA military forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.



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