Resolute Support in Afghanistan refuted reports by some media outlets that RS Commander Gen. John Nicholson said during a visit to Kandahar on Monday that the US was ready to join direct negotiations with the Taliban.
In a statement issued by Resolute Support, Nicholson said: “The United States is not a substitute for the Afghan people or the Afghan government.”
He said: “My reaffirmation of Secretary Pompeo’s statement in which he said peace talks would include a discussion of international forces and that the United States is ready to work with the Taliban, the Afghan government and the Afghan people toward lasting peace was mischaracterized.”
Resolute Support explained in their statement that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued his statement on June 16, days after the Afghan government announced its unilateral ceasefire with the Taliban.
“As President (Ashraf) Ghani emphasized in his statement to the Afghan people, peace talks by necessity would include a discussion of the role of international actors and forces,” Pompeo said in his statement.
“The United States is prepared to support, facilities and participate in these discussions,” he said.
Resolute Support spokesman, Lt. Col. Martin L. O’Donnell, meanwhile said: “The US is exploring all avenues to advance a peace process in close consultation with the Afghan government.
“But this remains an Afghan-led process.”
Nicholson’s response comes after some media outlets reported on Monday night that he said the US was ready to sit down with the insurgent group to talk peace.
CBC for instance wrote “the US military's top commander in Afghanistan says that America is ready to sit down with the Taliban for direct peace negotiations in an effort to bring an end to the 17-year-long conflict.”
But as Nicholson said, some of his words were “mischaracterized”.
What he did say on Monday was: "Our Secretary of State, Mr Pompeo, has said that we, the United States, are ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces."
Early Monday, the New York Times reported that President Donald Trump’s administration had ordered diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban in a bid to jump-start negotiations.
Reuters later reported that Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, said he was still waiting for confirmation but welcomed signs of the new approach.
Reuters also reported that US officials have said that Trump has shown growing impatience with a lack of progress in Afghanistan, where the Taliban control much of the country despite a more aggressive campaign of air strikes announced last year.
The insurgents have rejected talks with the government, which they see as illegitimate, and instead insisted that they would only talk with the United States.
Senior US officials, including Pompeo and Alice Wells, the State Department’s top diplomat for Afghanistan, have visited Kabul in recent weeks to try to smooth the way for talks.