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US agrees with Russia, China on pulling troops from Afghanistan

US, Italian and Afghan troops prepare shells during a February 2019 training exercise in Afghanistan's Herat province
AFP/File
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Washington (AFP)

The United States on Friday agreed with rivals Russia on China on a goal of withdrawing foreign forces from Afghanistan, a key component of a peace deal being negotiated by Washington.

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US envoy negotiating with the Taliban, met with Russian and Chinese representatives in Moscow as he seeks international consensus for his efforts to end the war.

A joint statement by the three countries called for an "inclusive Afghan-led" peace process and outlined many of the key points expected to feature in an eventual deal.

"The three sides call for an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of the overall peace process," said the statement issued by the US State Department.

They also said that the Taliban have made a "commitment" to fight the extremist Islamic State group and sever ties to Al-Qaeda.

The Taliban have promised to "ensure the areas they control will not be used to threaten any other country," the statement said, calling on them to prevent any "terrorist recruiting, training and fund-raising."

President Donald Trump is eager to end America's longest-ever war, which was launched in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks, when the then Taliban regime gave shelter to Al-Qaeda.

Russia and China both have strong interests in Afghanistan. Some 14,000 Soviet soldiers were killed in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1989 in a conflict with US-backed Islamic guerrillas.

China has been stepping up its involvement in Afghanistan both militarily and economically as it voices worries that militants could sneak into its restive Muslim-majority Xinjiang region.

Khalilzad will also hold separate talks during his latest trip with Pakistan and India, which have strongly different views on Afghanistan, and earlier huddled with European envoys in London.

One major sticking point is the Taliban's refusal to negotiate with the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which has wide-ranging international support.

The United States, Russia and China called on the Taliban to speak as soon as possible with a "broad, representative Afghan delegation that includes the government."

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