U.S, Russia Join in Urging Afghan Power-Sharing With Taliban
(Bloomberg) -- Russia and the U.S. are working together to persuade the Afghan government to share power with the Taliban even amid an angry response in Moscow after President Joe Biden said he agreed his Kremlin counterpart Vladimir Putin is a “killer.”
The two countries, along with China and Pakistan, urged the formation of an “inclusive government” in Afghanistan and the Taliban to call off its spring offensive at talks in Moscow on Thursday, according to a joint statement. U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, attended the meeting that included representatives of the warring Afghan sides as well as regional powers, in a rare example of collaboration between the former Cold War foes.
The Biden administration has signaled to President Ashraf Ghani it’s considering going ahead with a planned pull-out of all U.S. troops by May 1 as it leans on Kabul to accelerate peace talks with the Islamist group.
Despite increasing tensions between Moscow and Washington, Russia has publicly backed the U.S. proposal for an interim government of national unity bringing together the Taliban and Afghan leaders. The Kremlin has courted ties with the Taliban in recent years.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged the U.S. and the Taliban to stick to a peace deal signed in February last year that was to pave the way for the exit of all American forces in 14 months.
Ghani has reacted coolly to the U.S. power-sharing initiative, insisting last week that elections should be the only way to form a new government.
“The Biden administration will go all-in on this. Expect it to try to build a large consensus both in Afghanistan and overseas that pressures Ghani to accept the power-sharing idea,” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia program at the Wilson Center research group in Washington. “Washington may even threaten to withhold some future financial aid.”
Biden said it will be “tough” to meet the May 1 deadline in an interview with ABC News that aired Wednesday. If the timeline is extended, he added, it won’t be by “a lot longer.” In the same interview, the U.S. president agreed with ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanophoulos that Putin is a killer. Russia recalled its ambassador in Washington for consultations and demanded an apology from Biden.
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