Russia To Host Talks On Afghan Conflict

Russia plans to host international talks on the conflict in Afghanistan on April 14, a high-ranking Afghan official said.

Hanif Atmar, the Afghan president's national security adviser, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on March 18 that 12 countries, including the United States and the five Central Asian nations, have been invited to attend.

Atmar, however, pointed out that no invitation is being sent to the Taliban.

"There is no agreement about the Taliban's participation in any conference," Atmar said, adding the conference in Russia "is a meeting between states."

Russian news agencies quoted Atmar as saying Kabul was prepared to engage in direct negotiations with the militant group.

The Taliban "should sit down at the negotiating table with the Afghan government, rather than participating in the conference," Interfax quoted Atmar as saying.

Moscow in February organized talks on the situation in Afghanistan -- without the involvement of the West -- with representatives from Afghanistan, China, India, Pakistan, and Iran taking part.

A U.S.-led invasion drove the Taliban regime out of power in 2001.

But Afghan forces are facing mounting pressure from the resurgent militant group, which is seeking to reimpose its rule.

Since peaking at a force of about 100,000 troops, some 8,400 U.S. service members remain in Afghanistan after most NATO forces pulled out in 2014.

The head of the U.S. military's Central Command says more U.S. troops will be needed on the ground in Afghanistan in the fight against the Taliban and other forces.

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