Washington still hopes for talks with Taliban: State Department

Washington still hopes for talks with Taliban: State Department

WASHINGTON: Washington still hopes to “bring the Taliban to the negotiating table” in Afghanistan, a senior State Department official said Tuesday, even though President Donald Trump had ruled out such talks any time soon.

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, returning from a trip to Kabul, told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that all Afghan leaders “reiterated their support for our strategy,” and pledged to create “the conditions that will bring the Taliban to the negotiation table.”

“We hope the Pakistanis will also help to convince the Taliban to enter a peace process,” he said.

Trump had left the door open to negotiations when he presented his Afghanistan strategy in August.

But following January’s Kabul attack that left more than 100 people dead he rejected the notion of peace talks with the militant group.

“We don’t want to talk with the Taliban,” Trump said. “They are killing people left and right, innocent people.”

He added: “There may be a time but it’s going to be a long time.”

Pressed by Democratic senators on this apparent contradiction, Sullivan appeared to draw a distinction between moderate and extreme factions of the group.

“What President Trump was expressing was a reaction to the horrible terrorist activities last month in Kabul,” he said. “Significant elements of the Taliban are not prepared to negotiate and it may take a long time before they are willing to negotiate.”

But some factions do have a place at the table, Sullivan said, adding that Afghan leaders agree. – AFP