An Afghan government delegation met with Taliban representatives in Tehran Wednesday, the Iranian foreign ministry said, as the extremist militia has swept through northern areas amid the pullout of US troops.
Opening the Tehran talks, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif welcomed the US departure from its eastern neighbor but warned: “Today the people and political leaders of Afghanistan must make difficult decisions for the future of their country.”
Leading negotiator Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai headed the Taliban delegation while former vice president Younus Qanooni represented the government, the Iranian ministry said.
On Tuesday, Afghan authorities vowed to retake all the districts lost to the Taliban as the pullout of US forces neared completion.
Hundreds of commandos were deployed to counter the insurgents’ blistering offensive in the north, a day after more than 1,000 government troops fled into neighboring Tajikistan.
But on Wednesday, the Taliban attacked the Badghis provincial capital Qalat-i-Naw, the first regional seat they have entered since the launch of their latest offensive, local officials said.
The insurgents already control all of the surrounding countryside in Badghis province.
The US Central Command meanwhile announced that the American withdrawal from the country, ordered in April by President Joe Biden, was now more than 90 percent complete, underscoring that Afghan forces are increasingly on their own in the battle with the Taliban.