JUL 17, 2018: The United States is ready to join direct negotiations with the Taliban in an effort to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan, a senior US commander said.
Nicholson, who leads the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, said the US recognized it had a key role to play.
“Our secretary of state, Mr [Mike] Pompeo, has said that we, the United States, are ready to talk to the Taliban and discuss the role of international forces,” he said.
“We hope that they realize this and that this will help to move the peace process forward.”
There was no immediate comment from the Afghan Taliban. Last month, during a surprise Eid-related ceasefire, unarmed Taliban fighters mingled with Afghan security forces on the streets of Kabul and other cities amid growing speculation about possible peace talks following increased diplomatic efforts to seek negotiations.
Related Article: Pakistan Alone Can’t Push Afghan Taliban Into Peace Talks With Kabul
Sohail Shahin, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, told Aljazeera he was still waiting for confirmation of Nicholson’s comments but welcomed signs of the new approach.
“This is what we wanted and were waiting for – to sit with the US directly and discuss the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan,” Shahin said.
He said as a first step he expected to see Taliban leaders removed from a United Nations blacklist in order to be able to travel.
Shahin also said the issue of international troops in Afghanistan would be a major issue and the Taliban would be willing to discuss American concerns.
US officials have said President Donald 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 raids announced last year.
The armed group rejected talks with the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which it sees as illegitimate, and instead insisted it would only talk to the United States.
Earlier this month, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, Alice Wells, met with Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials in Islamabad and Rawalpindi with a heavy agenda — Afghanistan topping the list. Both sides reaffirmed the commitment towards the common goal of peace and stability in the region.
The two also exchanged views on issues of mutual interest, regional security, and cooperation between both the countries.
Prior to her visit to Pakistan, she had visited Kabul.