The U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass says the latest round of talks with the Taliban in Qatar was not a “substitute” for the “very important” discussions that have to take place among Afghans.
Speaking in a special interview with Ariana News, Bass said that the United States wants Afghanistan and its people to succeed and that to help Afghans create a future Afghanistan in which every citizen of the country could have the opportunity to live in “peace and dignity.”
“Obviously, a key to achieving that is a settlement to the terrible conflict with the Taliban has gone for too long in this society,”
“But when we talk about a settlement, what we are talking about is a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government and wider society that is worthy of the sacrifices that we have made together over the last 17 years and that preserves the gains and the progress that the society has made over these years,” Bass said.
The latest round of U.S. chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad’s talks with the Taliban representatives in Doha saw progress but no final agreement on the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
According to the U.S. State Department, when the agreement is finalized, the Taliban and an inclusive Afghan negotiating team that includes the Afghan government and other Afghans will begin intra-Afghan negotiations of a political settlement and comprehensive ceasefire.
“We respect to the discussions in Doha, what Ambassador Khalilzad is trying to do is that to reach some understanding with the Taliban about issues on Taliban’s part – the presence of the international forces – and we can make some progress with them on these issues,” Bass said.
“The move from this discussion about international forces into an equally important issue which is the discussions between the Taliban and the wider Afghan society including the representatives of the government to try to address those issues and aspects that only Afghans can decide,” he added.
The envoy Bass stressed that they have made some important progress in Doha, but he said: “it is not a substitute for the very important discussions that have to happen among Afghans.”
“We are not discussing with the Taliban any issue which is properly the subject for discussions among Afghans and for a solution and settlement among Afghans,” Bass noted.
Obstacles to Afghan peace process
The U.S. Ambassador Bass said that there is some “fundamental” difference of perspective between Taliban views its role in society and how the rest of the society views the Taliban’s role, behavior and actions in Afghanistan.
“There is a fundamental difference between the United States and all of our allies, recognition of the current government in Kabul as the legitimate representative of the Afghan people to other countries and in the United Nations and of course how the Taliban views the current government, “ Bass said. “So that is the difference that needs to work it out in the course of discussions.”
The envoy also talked about another key challenge in the Afghan peace process which according to him is the Taliban’s relationship with the countries in the region.
“Another key challenge, a degree of ambiguity about the Taliban’s relationships with some other governments and the extent to which the Taliban would implement an agreement faithfully with respect to its relationships which currently clearly exists with some other government in the region,” Bass said.
Ambassador Bass, meanwhile, said that achieving a degree of certainty about that dimension of the conflict will be quite important for the Afghan people “to have confidence in the outcome and confidence that any agreement would actually be important”.