Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad held a media roundtable at the U.S. Embassy today on Wednesday.
Ambassador Khalilzad informed that he met with Afghan officials in Kabul this morning to discuss peace and security. This comes after he was hosted in a dinner by President Ghani on Tuesday night.
Reacting to the Taliban statement that came out on Tuesday, he remarked “If the Talibs want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight. We hope that the Talibs want to make peace. But if they do not choose to come to the table, if they choose to continue fighting, the United States will stand with the Afghan people and the Afghan government and support them. We in the coalition are proud of our support to Afghan security forces. Afghan security forces and military pressure are important in this phase.”
The Taliban warned in a statement that they will back out of the peace process if the United States does not show enough commitment to its demand of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Mr Khalilzad praised Afghan security forces, saying their role is vital. He also said that “Afghan unity is vital as we go forward.”
Regarding Taliban engagement with the Afghan government, ambassador Khalilzad expressed that “The road to peace will require the Taliban to sit with the Afghan government. There is a consensus among all the regional partners on this point.”
Explaining on the U.S. Force status in Afghanistan, Khalilzad said that “We have never said we want permanent military bases in Afghanistan. What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, and to continue our partnership with Afghanistan, and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us.”
He continued “In the long run, we want to have a comprehensive relationship with Afghanistan that honors the sacrifice of the last seventeen years and provides for a better future for all Afghans. That relationship includes a military, diplomatic, and economic relationship.”
Clarifying about the next date of meeting with Taliban, he said that “We’re hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards.”