Abdul Ghani Baradar addressed a room full of Afghan power brokers.
When members of the Taliban and Afghan politicians met Tuesday in the Russian capital for talks aimed at ending the war in their country, one face in particular stood out: Abdul Ghani Baradar, a co-founder of the Taliban and the head of its political office, who spoke publicly for the first time about the need for a peace deal.
Baradar’s comments showed that the insurgency’s leadership was willing to advance peace talks and signaled that efforts to end the protracted US-led war in Afghanistan could be gaining momentum despite continued deadly attacks by the Taliban across the country.
“The Islamic Emirate is firmly committed to peace, but the first step is to remove obstacles and end the occupation of Afghanistan,” Baradar said, referring to the Taliban by the group’s preferred name.
The Taliban has repeatedly called for the full withdrawal of US forces before any peace settlement can be agreed upon. The United States has 14,000 troops in the country.
Sitting near Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a large round table in a central Moscow hotel, Baradar addressed a room full of Afghan power brokers, many of whom are political rivals of President Ashraf Ghani. As with previous meetings involving the Taliban, no members of the government in Kabul, whom the Taliban views as American “puppets,” attended.
Before Baradar’s remarks, Lavrov reiterated Russia’s call for a total pullout of foreign forces for a…