Russia hosts Afghan peace talks with Taliban, vows Tajikistan aid

Moscow: Russia promised military assistance to help Tajikistan deal with threats from neighbouring Afghanistan on Tuesday, as Moscow hosted Afghan peace talks that included representatives of the Taliban.
Russia is helping Tajikistan upgrade its military equipment and strengthen its border in view of the “threats that continue to emanate from Afghanistan,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe.
Meanwhile Afghan peace talks began in Moscow as former Afghan president Hamid Karzai met with the head of the Taliban delegation,Russian news agency Interfax reported.
The goal of the two-day talks was to form a “broad intra-Afghan basis for launching a peace process,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Russia has been pursuing a peacemaker role in nearby Afghanistan as the United States has withdrawn military forces.
Tajikistan is at the forefront of terrorist and drug smuggling threats from its war-torn neighbour, according to Lavrov.
“We closely collaborate to ensure the security of our countries,”Lavrov said in Dushanbe, where he also met Tajik leaders.
Russia and Tajikistan are allies in a post-Soviet security bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
Afghanistan’s foreign-aided government, established after the 2001 US invasion, is in conflict with the radical Taliban. Russia considers the Taliban to be a terrorist organisation, but speculation has swirled that Russia believes the Taliban may be able to help eliminate another terrorist group, IS.
Lavrov has denied such claims as unfounded. The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Russia’s leadership would not meet with the Taliban.
The Soviet Union fought insurgent forces in Afghanistan for a decade until 1989 in assistance to the then-socialist government, which subsequently collapsed.
41 Afghan security men killed: As many as 41 Afghan security force personnel were killed and 15 others injured in attacks by Taliban militants at security check-posts in the country’s Kunduz and Baghlan provinces, officials said on Tuesday.
Safi Amiri, Deputy Provincial Council Chief of Kunduz province, told Efe news that Taliban fighters attacked check-posts on the outskirts of Kunduz city shortly after midnight.
“In the overnight attack 27 soldiers and three members of the local police were martyred and up to 15 injured,” Amiri said, adding the attack was carried out by Taliban’s red unit commandos. They were armed with modern weapons to launch quick attacks, he added. — dpa/IANS