Sat Apr 15, 2017 2:50PM
In this photograph taken on April 11, 2017, an Afghan security force personnel fires during an ongoing operation against Daesh Takfiri terror group in Achin district of Nangarhar province. (AFP photo)
In this photograph taken on April 11, 2017, an Afghan security force personnel fires during an ongoing operation against Daesh Takfiri terror group in Achin district of Nangarhar province. (AFP photo)

The United Sates has ignored an invitation by Russia to be part of a multi-party initiative on strengthening security in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

Washington did not send its representative to the major conference held in Russian capital, Moscow, on Friday, much to the dismay of 11 countries attending the meeting to find a solution to the tense security situation in Afghanistan.

Russian officials said an invitation had been sent to Washington for its presence in the highly important meeting. Countries such as China, Iran and Pakistan were represented in the Friday conference.

US officials had earlier justified their failure to attend the conference, saying the Russia-sponsored initiative was meant to assert Moscow’s influence in Afghanistan.

“... it was unclear to us what the purpose was ... It seemed to be a unilateral Russian attempt to assert influence in the region that we felt wasn’t constructive at this time,” US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Tuesday. Russians said Washington's reasons were incomprehensible.

The United States is Afghanistan’s main ally in the alleged fight against the Taliban and other militant groups.

However, there is a widening gap between the US and other stakeholders in Afghanistan on how they should assess the threat imposed by Daesh, a Takfiri group based in Iraq and Syria that has gained influence in Afghanistan. There are also differences on how Kabul and allies should deal with the Taliban, which ruled the country before the US-led invasion in 2001.

Washington says its joint efforts with Kabul have significantly lowered the threat of Daesh. It estimates that the number of Daesh terrorists in Afghanistan is well below 1,000. Russia and other countries say at least 3,500 Daesh terrorists are operating in Afghanistan and the number is on the rise. Russia and China have been trying to negotiate with the Taliban and persuade the group to be more focused on Daesh rather than targeting the Afghan government and the military.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (R) welcomes his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, February 7, 2017. (AFP photo)

“A call has been sent to the Taliban movement to abandon its line for a military solution of the Afghan conflict in favor of direct talks with the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on the issue of national reconciliation,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the talks concluded in Moscow.

The US military said on Thursday that it had dropped its most powerful conventional bomb on suspected hideouts of Daesh. Russia said the military action, the first of its kind in history, could mark a major shift in Washington’s view of Daesh in Afghanistan. 

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