Russia to host US, China, Pakistan for Afghanistan talks next week

US offers to pay relatives of 10 killed in botched Afghan drone strike

By: AFP      Published: 07:34 AM, 16 Oct, 2021
Russia Afghanistan talks
Taliban fighters stand guard at a police station gate in Ghasabha area in Qala-e-Now, Badghis province.–AFP

Moscow will host the United States, China and Pakistan next week for talks on Afghanistan, the Kremlin's envoy to the country told Russian news agencies.

News agencies cited Zamir Kabulov as saying the meeting would take place on Tuesday and that the countries "will try to work out a common position on the changing situation in Afghanistan".

Putin's special envoy to Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said on Friday that Tuesday's talks would focus on trying "to work out a common position on the changing situation in Afghanistan".

As for the talks the next day, Kabulov said Moscow did not expect any "breakthrough solutions" but would "openly state our complaints to the Afghan delegation".

The Kremlin has reached out to the Taliban and hosted its representatives in Moscow several times in recent years.

While Moscow has been cautiously optimistic about the new leadership in Kabul, the Kremlin is concerned about instability spilling over into Central Asia where it has military bases. 

The announcement came as Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said hundreds of fighters loyal to the Islamic State militant group were massing in northern Afghanistan, as Moscow prepares to host international talks on the country next week.

The United States, China and Pakistan will join talks on the Taliban takeover on Tuesday, the Kremlin's envoy to Afghanistan said. 

A day later, the Taliban and other regional players will talk to Russian officials on how to rally international assistance to stave off a humanitarian crisis.

"According to our intelligence, the number of (IS) members alone in northern Afghanistan is about 2,000 people," Putin said during a video conference meeting with leaders of other ex-Soviet states.

He said they had plans to move between ex-Soviet Central Asian countries disguised as refugees.

Earlier this week, Putin warned of the threat of veteran fighters from Iraq and Syria with IS links crossing into Afghanistan, while Russia's foreign ministry said it expected the Taliban, which recently gained control of the country, to deal with the threat.

On Friday, Putin said IS leaders in Afghanistan were seeking to project the group's influence across former Soviet states in Central Asia -- which Moscow sees as its backyard -- to stir up religious and ethnic discord.

- 'We need to interact' -

"Terrorists are seeking to infiltrate the Commonwealth's territory, including under the guise of refugees," Putin said, referring to a group of ex-Soviet countries -- some of which border Afghanistan.

The Taliban, which seized control of Kabul from a pro-Western government in mid-August, are seeking international recognition and aid.

Putin on Friday said there was no need to rush with official recognition of the Taliban but noted that "we understand that we need to interact with them".

In the 1980s, Moscow fought a disastrous decade-long war in Afghanistan that killed up to two million Afghans, forced seven million more from their homes and led to the deaths of more than 14,000 Soviet troops.

US offers to pay compensation

The United States said Friday it has offered to pay unspecified compensation to relatives of 10 people in Afghanistan including seven children who were killed by mistake in a US drone strike as American forces were completing their withdrawal.

In a statement the Pentagon also said it was working with the State Department to relocate to the United States any of those relatives who wish to leave Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

The offer to pay these people was made Thursday in a meeting between Colin Kahl, the under secretary of defense for policy, and Steven Kwon, the founder and president of an aid group active in Afghanistan called Nutrition and Education International, the Pentagon said in a statement.

That organization employed Ezmarai Ahmadi, who was wrongly identified as an Islamic State militant by US intelligence on August 29 during the final days of the chaotic US evacuation from Kabul.

US intelligence tracked his white Toyota for eight hours before targeting the car with a missile, killing seven children and three adults, including Ahmadi.

US Central Command commander General Kenneth McKenzie said at the time that American intelligence had seen the vehicle at a site in Kabul that had been identified as a location from which IS operatives were believed to be preparing attacks on the Kabul airport.

Three days earlier an Islamic State-Khorasan suicide bomber had killed scores at the airport, including 13 US service members.

But last month US officials conceded the drone attack was an error.

In the meeting Thursday "Dr. Kahl noted that the strike was a tragic mistake and that Mr. Ezmarai Ahmadi and others who were killed were innocent victims who bore no blame and were not affiliated with ISIS-K or threats to US forces," said a statement attributed to Defense Department spokesman John Kirby.

"Dr. Kahl reiterated Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s commitment to the families, including offering ex gratia condolence payments," he added without saying how much money was offered.

Last month relatives of the people killed in the attack demanded compensation and a face to face apology.

Austin has apologized for the botched attack. However, Ahmadi's 22-year-old nephew Farshad Haidari said that was not enough.

"They must come here and apologize to us face-to-face," he told AFP in a bombed-out, modest house in Kwaja Burga, a densely populated neighborhood in Kabul.

Haidari, whose brother Naser and young cousins also died in the blast, said on September 18 that the US had made no direct contact with the family.

In the meeting Thursday NEI chief Kwon spoke of how Ahmadi worked with that aid organization "over many years, providing care and lifesaving assistance for people facing high mortality rates in Afghanistan."