The United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad held a roundtable discussion at the US Embassy with Afghan media on Wednesday.
Khalilzad, who is in Kabul on his third multination tour on Afghan peace, said he had met with Afghan officials in Kabul this morning to discuss peace and security, the US Embassy said in a statement. He praised Afghan security forces, saying their role is vital as “we move towards peace”.
“The road to peace will require the Taliban to sit with other Afghans, including the government. There is a consensus among all the regional partners on this point,” he said.
He also talked about a Taliban statement on the peace process.
Taliban in a statement on Jan. 15 said the United States is not discussing troop withdrawal with the group and that the US is bringing “new issues” in talks agenda. Taliban warned that “they will have to suspend the peace talks if the situation prevails”.
Taliban criticized “tactical pressure” by the US on the group through other countries and says that the address for talks with the Taliban is their political office in Qatar.
“If the Talibs want to talk, we can talk. If they want to fight, we can fight,” Khalilzad said. “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.”
Khalilzad said the United States “never want permanent military bases in Afghanistan”. “What we want is to see this conflict end through negotiation, to continue our partnership with Afghanistan, and to ensure no terrorist threatens either of us,” he added.
The US special envoy also talked about the next date for Talks with the Taliban.
“We’re hopeful it will happen very soon. That’s what we’re working towards,” he said.
Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Tuesday for the third time in less than four months. His third multi-nation trip on Afghan peace was started on January 8 and will continue through to Jan. 21, the US Department of State has said.