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Top Russian diplomat meets Taliban, encourages US withdrawal

MOSCOW (AP) — A top Russian diplomat on Thursday met with Taliban representatives and expressed Moscow's support for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The meeting came after two days of talks between prominent Afghan figures and Taliban representatives in Moscow.

A senior Taliban official said Wednesday that the United States has proposed to withdraw half of its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April, but the U.S. military said it has received no orders to begin packing up.

Zamir Kabulov, the Russian presidential envoy on Afghanistan, told the RIA Novosti news agency Thursday that Russia is willing to help talks between the U.S. and the Taliban on the withdrawal of U.S. troops but expressed doubt that the U.S. would pull out all of its troops.

"We're willing to help them agree on this," Kabulov said. "But if the U.S. says that they want to withdraw their troops but leave some military bases there — we're not going to be helping on this." He also said that Moscow would be willing to support lifting sanctions from the Taliban as long as other U.N. Security Council members are also on board

The two-day talks in the Russian capital that wrapped up Wednesday sidelined the government of Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani which has criticized the gathering. Afghanistan's former president, Hamid Karzai, was involved in the meeting and hailed the discussions, saying the participants shared a desire for peace and stability and opposition to foreign intervention.

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