The U.S.-NATO mission in Afghanistan refuted reports Monday that the top commander of American-led international forces said the United States is ready to engage in direct negotiations with the Afghan Taliban.
U.S. Gen. John Nicholson dismissed the reports as a mischaracterization of his comments, stressing in a statement issued Monday that United States policy remains focused on supporting peace talks led by the U.S.-allied Kabul government.
The statement came after Reuters reported Monday that Nicholson had indicated that “the United States is ready to join direct negotiations with the Taliban in an effort to end the 17 year-long war in Afghanistan … amid growing speculation about possible peace talks.”
Addressing the alleged mischaracterization of his remarks, Nicholson, the outgoingcommander of the U.S.-NATO mission in Afghanistan, declared:
The United States is not a substitute for the Afghan people or the Afghan government. My reaffirmation of Secretary [Mike] 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 towards lasting peace was mischaracterized.
The United States is exploring “all avenues” to advance a peace process, “but this remains an Afghan-led process,” U.S. Army Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell, a spokesman for the American-NATO mission in Afghanistan known as Resolute Support, added.
In a June 16 statement, Secretary Pompeo stressed that the United States is against the Taliban’s long-held precondition of a complete withdrawal of foreign forces for peace talks to occur but noted that everything, including the presence of U.S.-NATO-led troops, is up for discussion.