Afghan and Taliban representatives are speaking of progress toward peace and promising further talks after two days of dialogue in Tehran between a senior Taliban delegation and representatives of the Kabul government.Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, called the talks that ended Thursday “substantive,” tweeting: “As foreign forces leave Afghanistan, no impediment remains for Afghans of all political stripes to chart a peaceful & prosperous future for the next generation.”  Honored to be host of cordial & substantive dialog between senior Afghan reps.As foreign forces leave Afghanistan, no impediment remains for Afghans of all political stripes to chart a peaceful & prosperous future for the next generation.Iran stands with our Afghan brethren. FILE – A plume of smoke rises amid ongoing fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents in the western city of Qala-e-Naw, the capital of Afghanistan’s Badghis province, July 7, 2021.Michael O’Hanlon of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said Iran, as a next-door neighbor, is seeking “some degree of stability” in Afghanistan, especially since chaos could result in millions of refugees at its door.He said, though, he doubted the efforts would yield results.”I just don’t see the Taliban being in a mood to negotiate, regardless of where peace talks may be held, regardless of who may be the host,” he said.O’Hanlon said the Taliban are unlikely to make a power-sharing agreement at a point when they believe they are about to win on the battlefield.”I think the Taliban want to look as if they’re giving peace a chance, but they’re really going to rely on war,” he said.Iran’s foreign ministry called the talks in Tehran “The Intra-Afghan Dialogue Summit.” The semantics are important since the only official negotiations between the Taliban and an Afghan government-sanctioned team are happening in Doha. Those are called the “intra-Afghan negotiations.”All other meetings between Taliban and other Afghans — and there have been multiple in various countries across the region over several years — are called dialogues. These efforts are similar to what is called track 1.5 or track 2 in diplomacy.”The meeting that took place in Tehran is a complementary initiative to the main track of talks, which is based in Doha,” said Gran Hewad, the Afghan foreign ministry’s spokesman.He voiced skepticism, however, on whether anything meaningful was happening at the negotiations in Doha.”The last meeting that they could call a 1st track, on-the-record meeting was something that none of the parties have announced because it’s been missing for a long time,” he said.The regional diplomacy is happening at a time when the United States already has withdrawn 90 percent of its troops and equipment from Afghanistan, according to U.S. Central Command. President Joe Biden said Thursday the remaining troops will be home by the end of August.”That job had been over for some time and quite frankly overdue,” he said.The withdrawal of foreign forces has been accompanied by battlefield victories by the Taliban, who seem to have focused their energy in the country’s north.FILE- Afghans return to Afghanistan at the Islam Qala border with Iran, in the western Herat province, Feb. 20, 2019. Taliban have taken control of Islam Qala crossing border, an Afghan official and Iranian media confirmed on July 8, 2021.Late Thursday, the Associated Press reported the Taliban had seized a key border crossing with Iran called Islam Qala in Western Herat province.AP quoted Iranian media as reporting that Afghan soldiers on the border fled to Iran for refuge.A few days ago, more than 1,000 Afghan soldiers retreated into Tajikistan amid clashes as the Taliban seized that border.Tajikistan Bolsters Border as Afghan Troops, Fleeing Taliban, Seek Refuge 20,000 military reservists were mobilized to bolster the border with Afghanistan after more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled across the frontier in response to Taliban militant advancesAccording to Reuters, the six-nation Russian-led military bloc Collective Security Treaty Organization said Thursday it was ready to mobilize all of its resources if the situation on the border of Tajikistan did not stabilize.Meanwhile, a Taliban delegation landed Thursday in Moscow and met with Zamir Kabulov, the Russian special envoy for Afghanistan, apparently to reassure Russia that the border skirmishes would not spill into Russia’s backyard.”The [Taliban delegation] reaffirmed its position that the territory of Afghanistan will not be used against anyone,” Taliban spokesman Naeem tweeted. He also said diplomats, embassy employees, and those working for charities should continue without fear. Some information from Reuters and the Associated Press was used in this report. 

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