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Kabul To Attend Both U.S., Russia-Sponsored Peace Conferences


Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem

The Afghan government has said it will take part in two separate peace conferences sponsored by the United States and Russia in the coming weeks.

Russia has invited several regional players for the March 18 conference in Moscow. Separately, a U.S.-backed conference will be held in Turkey next month.

The Afghan government and the Taliban, the two warring factions in the 20-year conflict, have been invited to both events.

The conferences are meant to bring new life into stuttering peace talks held in Qatar between the Taliban and Kabul.

"The Afghan government will take part in both the Moscow and Turkey conferences," Afghan national-security adviser Hamdullah Mohib told reporters in Kabul on March 13.

Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the militant group had yet to decide if it would participate in either event.

The conferences come as a May 1 deadline looms for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan, a key component of the U.S.-Taliban deal signed by the Trump administration in February 2020.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is currently reviewing the agreement amid concerns about whether the Taliban is meeting its commitment to cut ties with the Al-Qaeda terrorist network and reduce violence in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has escalated its attacks against Afghan security forces and civilians despite holding peace talks with the government.

A car bomb near a police station in the western province of Herat on March 13 killed at least eight people and injured nearly 50 others.

Within hours of the attack, the UN Security Council at a press briefing in New York condemned an “alarming” increase in targeted killings in Afghanistan that U.S. and Afghan officials have blamed on the Taliban.

“These heinous attacks have targeted civil servants, the judiciary, the media, health-care and humanitarian workers, including women in prominent positions, those who protect and promote human rights, and ethnic and religious minorities,” the council said in a statement.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a letter to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier this month made a new push for a United Nations-led peace effort in Afghanistan and asked Turkey to host a senior-level meeting of "both sides in the coming weeks to finalize a peace agreement."

Blinken wrote to Afghan leaders that the United States is "considering the full withdrawal of forces by May 1 as we consider other options."

Based on reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AP
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