President Donald Trump’s administration is prioritizing ending the war in Afghanistan by instructing its top diplomats to initiate peace talks directly with the Taliban, The New York Times reported Monday.
The White House is hoping the initial talks, which have not yet been scheduled, will be a stepping stone to broader negotiations involving the Afghanistan government to end Taliban occupation of 59 districts in the country, according to The New York Times.
The Trump administration has laid the foundation for direct talks with the Taliban, as several senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have visited the region in the last few weeks. Similar attempts at peace negotiations under former President Barack Obama crumbled when the Afghan government felt left out of the process, The New York Times reported. Pompeo’s visit reassured Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that future negotiations would not leave out Afghan leaders, despite the contrary wishes of the Taliban to do so. (RELATED: Dozens Of Afghan Soldiers Killed During Taliban Attack)
“Peace must be decided by the Afghans and settled among them,” Pompeo said July 9 during his brief visit to Kabul.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure that our actions help the Taliban and the Afghan government to the same table,” Alice G. Wells, a senior diplomat in Afghanistan told The New York Times in early July when she held peace talks with both Afghan and Pakistani leaders.
The Pentagon later told The Daily Caller News Foundation, “We are in support of an Afghan-led negotiation. At no time did anyone that were aware of put out a statement that’s counter to that.”
The U.S.’s promise for a more active role in ending Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan is linked to Trump’s growing frustrations with the war and his desire to end it, a senior American official told The New York Times Monday. The U.S. has taken numerous steps in the past few months to staunch Taliban-led violence, including implementing an unprecedented Taliban cease-fire in June during holy Eid festivities and increased pressure on Pakistan to block Taliban leaders from seeking sanctuary across their borders.
Still, the U.S. Resolute Support commander appeared to refute reports of direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban on Monday.
“The United States is not a substitute for the Afghan people or the Afghan government,” U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, Resolute Support commander, said on Monday in a statement. “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 towards lasting peace was mischaracterized.”
The U.S. invaded Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and overthrew Taliban leaders from power, but since then, the Islamic terrorist organization continues to gain traction across the country, according to reports by the BBC.
Editors Note: This story has been updated with the statement from Resolute Support that came out after this article was published.
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