Afghan Security Forces to Reject Transient Peace Deal With Taliban - President

Afghan security personnel patrol in the city of Ghazni province west of Kabul Afghanistan. A Taliban assault on Ghazni a key city linking areas of Taliban influence barely 75 miles from Kabul has killed about 100 Afghan policemen

The meeting is due to start on February 5 and last for two days.

Abdullah Abdullah, the country's chief executive, said on Monday that the Afghan government should be at the centre of any peace talks, adding that Kabul "would prefer the Moscow meeting had a different shape".

The Afghan statement issued by those attending the meeting said the participants would discuss a range of issues, from a cease-fire, supporting Khalilzad's initiatives to further "intra-Afghan" talks and ways to ensure a "powerful and democratic central government" in Afghanistan.

The two-day meeting in Russia's capital between the Taliban and mainly Afghan opposition figures is seen as another step in a process aimed at resolving the country's 17-year war, one that has accelerated since the appointment of United States peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad last September. A 10-member Taliban delegation would be led by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai.

But the Moscow meeting has sidelined Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's government, which has criticised the gathering.

Among those attending the meeting is Haneef Atmar, a former national security adviser who is running against Ghani in presidential elections set for July.

Former Vice President Mohammad Yunus Qanuni and former Balkh provincial Governor Atta Mohammad Noor are also on the list of participants, along with former Taliban insurgents who reconciled with the Afghan government.

The Moscow talks follow a series of direct negotiations between Taliban members and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad amid a renewed push by President Donald Trump to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

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But the Russian embassy in Kabul has clarified in a statement that the meeting is being arranged by a Russia-based "Council of Afghans Society" to promote peace in Afghanistan.

Fazel Fazly, chief adviser to Ghani, expressed "regret" that politicians who previously led Afghanistan's democratic transition were to meet the Taliban.

In January, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said in an interview with The New York Times that US and Taliban officials during talks in Doha had agreed in principle on the framework of an agreement "that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for worldwide terrorist groups or individuals" in exchange for the withdrawal of US troops and a ceasefire.

Ghani has repeatedly said that all Afghans should agree on the need to end hostilities and an eventual withdrawal of foreign forces, but that he would not "surrender to a temporary peace deal".

Taliban spokesman Zabhullah Mujahid said the conference was about "opening channels to reach an understanding with non-government Afghan political groups".

The Moscow gathering is likely to further isolate Ghani, who has been irked by Khalilzad's direct talks with the Taliban as well as the USA envoy's successive rounds of talks in regional countries.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the clash so far.

Reports late a year ago suggested Trump was considering withdrawing at least half of Washington's estimated 15,000 troops from Afghanistan by the summer.

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