Russia says Taliban have accepted invitation to talks

Vastavam web: The Taliban said on Wednesday it would send senior members to Russia for peace talks on Afghanistan, hours after the Afghan government declined the offer to attend. Russia has invited several countries, including the United States, to the Moscow talks in September but Washington and Afghanistan have said they will not go. At least four senior Taliban members will attend, said a Taliban commander, adding that the delegation would be led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of the Islamist group’s political office in the Qatari capital Doha.

Hours earlier, the Afghan government said it would not go, a decision that could scupper Moscow’s plans for talks on Sept. 4 to discuss the future of the country. There appeared to have been a shift in Kabul’s stance. Earlier on Wednesday, the office of Afghan national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, said he had asked Russia’s ambassador Alexander Mantytski “to put pressure on Taliban insurgents to begin negotiations with the Afghan government”.

A senior Kabul-based foreign diplomat whose country is among those invited to the Moscow talks said Russia would now have to “rethink the plans to hold their talks with the Taliban”. The Russian Embassy in Kabul was not immediately available for comment.