Offer of peace talks with the Taliban still stands, the Obama administration said insisting that whenever it begins it would be an “Afghan-owned” and “Afghan-led” process.
“Taliban have a real choice. They can accept the government of Afghanistan’s invitation to engage in a peace process and ultimately become part of the political system of the sovereign unified Afghanistan, which would be supported by the international community, or they can continue fighting fellow Afghans, which is what is destabilising the country,” a senior administration official told reporters during a conference call.
The US, the official said, would support any political settlement that includes the Taliban renouncing violence, breaking ties with terrorism and accepting Afghan constitution, including protections for women and minorities.
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“We continue to recognise that this long war will only end through political negotiation between the Afghan government and the Taliban to work out terms of peace and reconciliation,” the official said.
The decision of the US President Barack Obama to maintain a sizable US military presence for continuing the training, advising and assisting roles will enable the Afghan government to preserve security while it pursues a peace settlement, the official said.
“President Obama remains absolutely committed to pursuing peace and reconciliation process. The US supports the Afghans going into this without any preconditions for a reconciliation process,” the official added.
Responding to a question, the official said so far the Taliban has declined to join the peace process.
“We worked with three other international partners, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan, to set up a quadrilateral coordinating group. Met a number of times early in the year and issued a call for the Taliban to come to the table to negotiate in an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process,” he said.
“Regrettably, the Taliban declined to join the process, but from our perspective those offers still remain open. We support the quadrilateral process and we continue to hope that the Taliban will come to the table,” the official added.