John R. Bass, US Ambassador in Afghanistan, said the US is not engaged in peace talks with the Taliban and that their only redline is that the group has to talk to the Afghan government and the Afghan people.
Recently, the efforts by US to facilitate the peace talks between the afghan government and the Taliban have increased for which, the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation visited Kabul for the third time on Tuesday.
In an interview with TOLOnews, the US ambassador said the US is not negotiating on behalf of the Afghan government as he pointed at the efforts by the United States on Afghan peace.
“We are not engaged in peace talks with the Taliban,” he said. “We are not negotiating on behalf of the Afghan people, we are not negotiating on behalf of the Afghan government, we are not in negotiating period. We are talking to the Taliban and to every other representative of the Afghan society to see how we can help create those conditions for Afghans to sit down together.”
Bass said that the US is feeling a sense of urgency to see negotiations begin between Afghans because they see the overwhelming demand for peace.
“We are interested in a settlement that produces the result we want to see which is peace in Afghanistan,” he said.
In response to a question about whether there is a redline in the US's peace efforts, the US ambassador said: “The only redline is that the Taliban has to talk to the Afghan government and Afghan people."
“As I said our goal here grounded in the objective realities is that there needs to be a settlement that comes from within the society so that it is broadly accepted by the society and therefore has a good chance of being implemented,” he said.
The US envoy said they are trying to bring about those circumstances that allows those negotiation among Afghans to occur.
There are recently concerns among Afghan critics about a return of an Islamic emirate as a result of peace deal. The ambassador said that any decision to amend the Afghan Constitution would be made by Afghans.
“We believe that the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is the guiding document for this society until such time as this society through its relevant representatives would decide to make changes,” he said.
Bass said that the US is not imposing a Taliban-like regime on the Afghan society.
“No one in the US government has ever said that we are prepared to impose to support the imposition on Afghan society of certain past practices of the Taliban and so if anyone is suggesting that we are prepared to do that, the answer is we are not,” he said.
According to him, the direct parties in the peace talks are Afghans - the Taliban and the Afghan government and the wider Afghan society.
On the role of Pakistan, the US envoy said that Pakistan has not played a constructive role in Afghan peace as it should have played so far.
“We believe they are not playing a fully constructive role as they should be in contributing to a political settlement in Afghanistan and in addressing the very real challenges that violence generated by the Taliban poses for the society,” he said.
He said that if Pakistan is not prepared to support the US expectations to help realize those outcomes, “there will be consequences” for US-Pakistan relations.
Afghanistan permanent representative to the United Nations Mahmoud Saikal meanwhile has said that an authorized negotiating team from the Afghan government will do peace negotiations with Taliban.
Talking at the UN General Assembly on Thursday, Saikal said an authorized team will conduct face-to-face negotiations with Taliban insisting that the Afghan government also expect Taliban to introduce a negotiating team.
“To push the peace agenda forward, an authoritative negotiating team will conduct direct negotiations with the Taliban and we expect the same from the Taliban to give us a united negotiating team,” said Saikal.
Meanwhile, some of Afghanistan’s mainstream political parties on Thursday said they have established independent peace negotiating teams to talk to the Taliban.
Jamiat-e-Islami, which is led by acting minister of foreign affairs Salahuddin Rabbani, General Abdul Rashid Dostum-led The National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar-led Hizb-e-Islami are among the three parties which have created their own separate teams to negotiate with the Taliban insurgents.
A day after the political parties’ remarks, the High Peace Council (HPC) on Friday said government did not consult the council while appointing the peace negotiating team.
“When government was appointing the team, it did not consult with HPC in this regard. We want government to consult us and the political figures in this respect,” HPC member Qazi Mohammad Amin Waqad said.
In reaction to the political parties’ move, Presidential Palace has said the parties instead of forming independent peace negotiating team, could have introduced their representatives to the peace advisory board of the Afghan government.