The Afghan and Pakistani presidents told a news briefing in London on Monday that they have set an optimistic target of six months to reach a peace deal with the Taliban. —File Photo

WASHINGTON: The United States supports a Pak-Afghan deadline for finalising a peace deal with the Taliban and urges insurgents to open a reconciliation post in Qatar as soon as possible, says the US State Department.

The Afghan and Pakistani presidents told a news briefing in London on Monday that they have set an optimistic target of six months to reach a peace deal with the Taliban.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, who hosted the trilateral meeting, played a key role in setting the first timeframe for a deal with the insurgents.

“We fully endorse the contents of the joint statement that those three governments came forward with, and we are committed ourselves to support an Afghan-led process,” State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told a briefing in Washington. She recalled that last month US President Barack Obama had met Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Washington where the two leaders reaffirmed their faith in an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process.

Such a process was “the surest way to end the violence and ensure lasting stability in Afghanistan and in the region”, Ms Nuland added.

“We believe that the UK-Afghanistan-Pakistan Chequers summit that occurred this weekend was clearly an advance in this process.”

The United States has remained engaged with the Afghan and Pakistani governments to support this process, said Ms Nuland, noting that talks have been held separately with each of the two governments as well as within the core group, which includes the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Our goal here has been to support the creation of a process to make it possible … for willing Taliban participants to talk directly to the Afghan High Peace Council,” she said. And that’s why the United States also supported the opening of the Taliban office in Qatar, she added.

“We’re looking for, and we call on the Taliban to take the steps necessary to open the office in Doha and to enter into real dialogue with the High Peace Council,” the US official said. “The goal for everybody should be an inclusive political order in a strong, unified, sovereign Afghanistan.”

The United States has also sent a senior envoy, Jim Warlick, to Kabul, for another round of talks on a bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan.

The proposed agreement will set guidelines for a long-term US military presence in Kabul after 2014 when the United States and its Nato allies plan to end their combat missions in Afghanistan.