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March 9, 2016

US to extend stay if Taliban keep on rejecting peace process

Top Story

March 9, 2016

WASHINGTON: The United States will extend its stay in Afghanistan if the Taliban continue refusing to take part in the peace talks, the State Department announced here on Monday while insisting that the only solution for the Taliban was to embrace a reconciliation process.

“Our longer-term strategy – we continue to have the US forces on the ground in Afghanistan, rather, helping build the capability of Afghan’s own security forces to continue to fight and protect the Afghan people from the Taliban. We’re going to continue those operations,” the department’s deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said.

Commenting on the recent turndown from the Taliban, he said, “We believe that the Taliban have a choice,” adding that the Taliban could continue fighting their fellow Afghans or they could join the political settlement. “They can continue the cycle of violence that has plagued that country for so many decades and continue to destabilise the country, or they can engage in a peace process and ultimately — with the ultimate possibility rather — of becoming part of a legitimate part of the political system of a sovereign, united Afghanistan,” he said.

Briefing the media, Mark Toner further said, “We’re going to see if we can’t get them to reconsider,” adding that the US was working closely with all the members of the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, which includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, and China, to try “to facilitate the resumption of a peace process — of a dialogue, rather, towards a political settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban.”

Toner emphasised on what he called the end condition that the US was willing to accept a political resolution to the conflict between the Afghan government and the Taliban so long as “the outcome of any of process like that ensures that the Taliban and any other opposition — armed opposition groups end it — renounces violence, breaks any association with international terrorism, and accepts Afghanistan’s constitution, including its protections for women and for minorities.”

Responding to a question about a statement about the Taliban presence in the country, he said the US had serious talks with the Pakistani government. “They face a very serious threat from terrorists within their own borders. As we have long said, no one suffers more from terrorist attacks than the people of Pakistan. So we’re committed to heeling them, take that fight against the — or to the terrorists who are in their country, within Pakistan’s borders.”

Toner concluded that Pakistan had played a helpful role, and the end remained an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and reconciliation process to end the violence and ensure lasting stability in the region.