WASHINGTON: A senior US diplomat has said that the United States cannot hold direct talks with the Taliban as it’s doing with North Korea because there’s no comparison between the two situations.
Instead, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells urged the insurgents to talk to the Kabul government first if they want to join the reconciliation process.
Sharing the details of her recent visit to Kabul at a Washington think-tank, Ms Wells also rejected another key Taliban demand, pulling out US troops from Afghanistan. The troops will stay for as long as it takes to stabilise the country, she added.
“There’s no comparison between North and South Korea and Afghanistan,” said the senior US diplomat while noting that North and South Korea had spoken to each other in advance before Pyongyang sought direct talks with Washington.
“So, what we’re looking for in Afghanistan is a fundamental recognition that in an insurgency, the insurgents and the government … need to engage in a conversation with one another as well as with other interested parties to that settlement,” Ms Wells said. “We have been very consistent in this approach.”
The US official also hinted that Washington was willing to resume the quadrilateral dialogue process, which included Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States, and China, for restoring peace to Afghanistan.
“The role of China is potentially quite important. We have overlapping interests with China in Afghanistan. We both want to see a stable and secure Afghanistan that does not tolerate and is able to prevent the presence of terrorists,” said Ms Wells while responding to a question about using China’s influence for changing Islamabad’s Afghan policy.
“We have quite good engagement with the Chinese. In the past, we have undertaken quadrilateral meetings with them. That mechanism remains possible for use in the future. China is a very important part of the geo-political puzzle,” she said.
Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2018