US turns down Russia invitation to Afghan peace conference

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Nicholson told the Senate committee in February that he believed Russian Federation was attempting to "legitimize" the Taliban through a "false narrative" that the militants were fighting against the Islamic State in Afghanistan, rather than government forces. "We cannot find another explanation to this", Kabulov said.

"The Afghanistan-Pakistan region is a magnet for militancy, and there's no reason why the hundreds of ISIS fighters that have been lost won't be replaced", Kugelman said.

He said Friday that Afghan security forces have taken the necessary preparations to recapture the area from the Taliban and that operation would begin Friday.

"Which is why we are urgently calling for greater investment in aid and education so that the progress made in Afghanistan over the past 10 to 15 years, particularly in girls' schooling, does not come undone".

The move comes after months of attacks by the Taliban on the district, which was held by British and then U.S. troops before being returned to Afghan military control after the end of formal combat operations in 2014.

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Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, also issued a statement claiming the Taliban capture of Sangin.

The Resolute Support statement called the move a strategic maneuver that had been planned for "some time".

Heavy fighting has also been reported near Tarin Kot, the provincial capital of Uruzgan in south-central Afghanistan, which nearly fell to Taliban fighters a year ago. "These routine violations undermine any prospect of normal bilateral relations, and pose a serious threat to peace and security in our region and beyond", Rabbani said.

The Taliban have long refused to hold direct talks with the Afghan government, calling it a "puppet" of the United States, the VOI reported. The insurgent group "has taken over a major urban space in one of its major stronghold provinces, amplifying the major threat that the group poses to Afghanistan almost 16 years after it was removed from power".

Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), based near the Afghan-Pakistan border, has increased its recruiting and the number of terror attacks it has carried out in Afghanistan.

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Earlier reports had suggested that political representatives of the Taliban hinted at giving a positive response if they were formally invited to the conference.

Russian Federation has been critical of the USA over its handling of the war in Afghanistan - now in its 16th year - where the Soviet Union fought a bloody and disastrous war of its own in the 1980s.

Separately on Thursday, a policeman linked to the Taliban killed nine of his colleagues as they were sleeping in the northern Kunduz province, local police chief Aziz Kamawal told AFP.

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