Russia, Pakistan discuss Afghan peace process

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Col. Dave Butler, a spokesman for the USA military in Afghanistan has said that the airstrikes were carried out with an aim to force the Taliban militants to participate in peace talks.

Referring to post-peace agreement Afghanistan, the Taliban insists "that as well as the withdrawal of foreign forces, there will be a return to their strict version of Islamic rule, and many Afghans doubt their claims to have softened, even while yearning for an end to the war", Reuters notes.

U.S. President Donald Trump's administration has come out in full support of Kabul's offer to the Taliban of a ceasefire and official recognition as a legitimate political power.

The armed group has insisted on first reaching an agreement with the United States, which it sees as the main force in Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taliban government in 2001.

The Taliban have not formally responded to the news that Trump had made a decision to withdraw roughly half of the 14,000 USA troops in Afghanistan.

Islamabad also views this development as hugely significant and last week it sent its foreign minister to Afghanistan, China, Russia and Iran to discuss various options for a peaceful transition in Kabul.

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It came last week as USA peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban in Abu Dhabi, part of efforts to bring the militants to the negotiating table with Kabul.

"I don't think their mindset has changed but they have realized that without respecting human rights, they can not be accepted by the global community", said Bilal Sediqi, spokesman for the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The Taliban say they control 70 percent of the country. U.S. military headquarters in Kabul said fighting had ceased by 8.00 am (0330 GMT) and Afghan forces had held their ground and maintained control of all government centers.

"I know there is no place for me if the Taliban return in their old style", said Abdul, a 12-year police veteran now working in the western province of Farah. "They are also exhausted of war". We see changes among them.

"I think that these statements that the Taliban have changed are only excuses that are being used by the Taliban to gain acceptance", said Malina Hamidi, a teacher at a school in the Chamtal district of Balkh province.

Tadamichi Yamamoto, who also serves as head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said the United Nations "unequivocally condemns them, as there is no justification whatsoever for such attacks".

In the week before President Donald Trump's reported decision to abruptly withdraw 7,000 USA service members from Afghanistan, the top US commander there all but admitted that the 17-year-old war there will not end with a military victory for the Pentagon.