Senior Afghan Diplomat: US Must Withdraw Troops from Afghanistan Responsibly

Last week, Moscow hosted talks between Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives. The talks on Afghanistan were held behind closed doors last Friday. The head of the Afghan government delegation, Rasool Eslamee, in an exclusive interview with Sputnik, spoke about the significance of these talks for the peace process.

Sputnik: How do you assess the initiative of Moscow? What are the results of the meeting within the framework of the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan? What are the impressions of the participating countries at the end of the conference? Will there be more meetings like this?

Rasool Eslamee: The Moscow format is very important since Russia invited the Taliban. This conference was attended by both the Taliban and the Afghanistan High Peace Council. A very important issue that was raised at the conference is the start of bilateral negotiations between the two groups. For the first time, there's an opportunity to begin a dialogue between the two sides.

The most important result of the Moscow format is the possibility in the future to reach common points of agreement between the Taliban and the High Peace Council. All participants of the Moscow format were satisfied with the results of the meeting, so it was decided to organize another conference in the near future. Before the conference, the participating countries will offer their ideas so that the future meeting will be effective.

U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache four miles of the US military base in Bagram, Afghanistan (File) - Sputnik International
Taliban Will Only Talk to Kabul if Timeline Exists For US Troops' Exit - Moscow
Sputnik: Are you ready to engage in the negotiation process, including with representatives of the Taliban?

Rasool Eslamee: We usually participate in all the activities that are organized with the aim of establishing peace in Afghanistan. We always tried to help, both in deed and in advice, so that the meetings end positively. We also supported this proposal (the launch of a direct dialogue) and will support it. Even if there are any differences and contradictions, they will be resolved through negotiations. If there are no negotiations, the contradictions will remain unresolved, and peace will not be achieved. That is why we were also in favour of bilateral negotiations in order to resolve all differences.

READ MORE: Taliban Militants Capture Military Base in Central Afghanistan — Reports

Sputnik: Iran has repeatedly declared its readiness to help its neighbour, Afghanistan. What is the role of Iran in establishing a peaceful dialogue between the warring parties in Afghanistan?

Rasool Eslamee: Iran maintains good relations with Afghanistan, with various groups within Afghanistan, jihadist groups, ethnic groups. The Islamic Republic of Iran also has contacts with the Taliban with regard to the issues of security concerns at the borders. Therefore, we recommended that all parties begin negotiations. Let us hope that we will soon see an Afghanistan where peace and stability prevail.

Sputnik: One of the conditions of the Taliban before they start direct talks with Kabul was the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. Iran also does not support the idea of the presence of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan. Do you think stability and economic independence will come to Afghanistan with the departure of foreign forces?

Rasool Eslamee: Starting with the London Conference, which was held about 10 years ago, we raised the issue of the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan in order to determine the timeframe for their presence in the country, and also to ensure that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was responsible. For example, a country that is responsible for training the Afghan military and police must conduct training on time and withdraw its troops.

Foreign forces cannot stay in Afghanistan forever, because for them it's very expensive, if, of course, they are not pursuing other goals. Afghanistan does not want foreigners and foreign troops to stay there forever. That is why we called for determining the timeframe for the presence of foreigners and their forces, and also so that the withdrawal of their troops would be carried out responsibly. They must complete their tasks and leave Afghanistan.

Maulana Sami ul-Haq, head of Defence of Pakistan Council, a coalition of around 40 religious and political parties, speaks during a press conference in Islamabad on August 23, 2017. - Sputnik International
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If Afghanistan achieves unity, neighbouring countries, key countries in the region, such as Russia, China, Iran and other states, will be able to help rebuild the country and train Afghan personnel. Afghanistan has a great amount of natural resources that it can develop with the help of neighbouring and friendly countries.

Rasool Eslamee — director-general of the Department of Western Asia Affairs of the Afghan Foreign Ministry; aid to the Afghan minister of foreign affairs; head of the Afghan delegation at the Moscow format consultations on Afghanistan.

The views expressed in this article are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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