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US rejects troops pullout, direct talks with Taliban

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: The US President Donald Trump administration has ruled out the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and any direct negotiations with the Taliban until the militant group conceded to the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

Taliban’s open letter to the US government and people, seeking direct talks and withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan, set as pre-condition by the militant group had met a cold-shouldered response from the White House.

 America’s senior diplomat for South and Central Asia said the US was in Afghanistan as per demand and need of its government, adding the US and NATO forces would stay there to make sure the war-hit country did not become a safe haven for terrorists again.

“The recent Taliban letter to the people of the United States, I believe, misses the point. For eight years, the US has been prepared to support a peace process, but we cannot be a substitute for the Afghan people in the Afghan government negotiations with the Taliban,” Alice Wells remarked.

Speaking at the US Institute of Peace, Alice Wells said the Taliban militants were at war with the Afghan people long before US military operations began in 2001.

“Now obviously the US has a direct interest in the resolution of this conflict,” she said

However, Alice Well rejected the Taliban’s offer of direct talks with the US, bypassing Afghanistan and the precondition of departure of the US troops from Afghanistan, adding the US-led NATO mission would be continued as long as the Afghan government agreed to host, as per security agreement.

 “We are in Afghanistan as a guest of a sovereign Afghan government that’s recognized by the UN and international community, with our presence enshrined in the strategic partnership agreement and a bilateral security agreement.”

Responding to a question, she said the Taliban could not expect direct talks with the US as had happened in the case of North Korea. There was no comparison between North and South Korea and Afghanistan, the diplomat argued.

 “So, what we’re looking for in Afghanistan is a fundamental recognition that in an insurgency, the insurgents and the government that is ruling need to engage in a conversation with one another as well as with other interested parties to that settlement. We have been very consistent in this approach,” Wells said.

President Ashraf Ghani recently concluded the second Kabul Process conference that would require the support of the international community to establish peace and stability in Afghanistan and around the region, she said.

 “But I can certainly assure you we understand how difficult it is and how essential it is to the success of the overall effort,” she noted.

“Certainly it’s only going to be when we see the success of the stabilization of Afghanistan that we in the international community can draw the confidence that the level of our presence is not required,” Well furthered.

Accusing the Taliban of being indifferent to the Afghan people, she believed it was time for the conflict to end. “There’s a way to end this conflict. There’s a will to end this conflict. There’s international support to this. It’s the Taliban who are the stumbling block to peace.”

Alice Wells said responding seriously to the offer of Talks by President Ghani is up to the Taliban leadership; However, Washington has been in support of Ghani initiative for peace and offers facilitation.

Responding to the Taliban letter, the former US diplomat Burnet Rubin, in his open letter to Taliban has advised the militant group to enter into Afghan-led peace process.

“Trying to exclude the Afghan government repeats the mistake the US made by excluding you,”

Burnet Rubin said.

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