The United States has called on the Taliban to give “serious” consideration to an offer for peace talks extended by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani at Kabul Process II conference last week.
The U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of South and Central Asian affairs, Alice Wells told reporters in Washington on Monday that the Afghan government is not demanding “surrender” by the Taliban as the group’s spokesman has said.
“I think it probably caught the Taliban by surprise with how thoughtful and comprehensive the package that President Ghani was putting forward,” Ms. Wells said. “This is not a surrender that’s being offered to the Taliban.”
‘Ghani’s offer included a cease-fire and prisoner swap, passports for Taliban representatives and their families, Taliban’s participation in elections, a review of the constitution and recognizing the group has legitimate political force.
But the Taliban has continued to reject direct peace talks with the Afghan government and has insisted that the group will not join talks until all foreign forces have left the country.
Wells said Ghani’s offer showed the Afghan government has “listened carefully” to the Taliban and is being responsive to a number of the militants’ requests.
Ghani’s offer was “quite forward-leaning, and frankly I think probably caught the Taliban by surprise,” Wells said. “This was quite a courageous offer.”
“We certainly encourage the Taliban to take this offer seriously. It does put the onus on the Taliban to respond,” she said.
Wells said the United States supports an Afghan peace conference scheduled for late March in Tashkent, which she said came out of a meeting between Ghani and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev in December.