KABUL: (MEP) – US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbins said here Monday that the US “supports” an Afghan-led peace process “which would involve negotiation between the Government of Afghanistan and the High Peace Council that the Government of Afghanistan had established to conduct peace negotiations with the Taliban.” During a press briefing at the Foreign Press Center, Dobbins affirmed that the US “has sought its own contacts with the Taliban in order to reinforce that message with them,” adding that Pakistan “has also been helpful in this regard.” “There has been discussion about opening a Taliban political office in Doha. Some progress was made toward that. There was a false start back in June, “he noted.
He affirmed that the office is not currently open “but we would like to see it open. We would like to see Doha become a forum for negotiations about peace in Afghanistan, negotiations principally between the Afghan High Peace Council and the Taliban.” “I think the Taliban are now, as a practical matter, unwilling to engage with the United States, with the Afghans, with anybody, as a practical matter. And we’re not sure when they’ll emerge from this,” he remarked.
Dobbins stressed “we would still like to see that dialogue initiated, a dialogue which would involve the US and Taliban directly, but also would involve, in parallel, the Taliban and the Afghan Government or its High Peace Council.” He reiterated that the Taliban “don’t seem to be ready for that for the moment. We’re not giving up. We continue to hope that there will be a positive development at some point, but we can’t predict when.” Meanwhile, Dobbins said “we’re pursuing a number of interrelated transitions and operations with respect to Afghanistan,” affirming the intention to reduce the American military presence there over the course of 2014 “not to eliminate it.” “There will still be a significant advisory and assistance presence in 2015 and beyond, but the troop numbers will come down significantly from where they are now,” he added.
He indicated “we’re currently negotiating an agreement with the Afghans which would provide the legal basis for that continued American military presence, and we also anticipate that there’ll be a continued presence of other NATO partners and nations, probably several thousand as well, in the 2015 and beyond period.” He affirmed “we are supporting the electoral process, which is the, I think, single most important development which will affect Afghanistan’s future over the next year. And we are also, of course, maintaining a significant civilian assistance program, which is not intended to diminish, even as the American troop levels go down.