US backs moving peace talks to Afghanistan
“I think we would agree with the statement with the qualification “as soon as possible,” a senior President Obama administration official said when asked about Karzai’s statement.
“It also very much reflects this whole process, which began with a series of loya jirgas that Karzai held in 2010 and 2011. It includes the Karzai visit here to Washington in January. And this is an Afghan initiative and it's a perfect representation of what we mean by Afghan-led, Afghan-owned,” another senior administration official said.
“So if the Afghan delegation makes this a priority in their engagements with the Taliban, then that’s completely in keeping with Afghan ownership,” the official said in response to a question.
At the same time, given their bitter experience from the past, the official offered a word of caution on expecting much in the initial phase of the talks.
“The core of this process is not going to be the US Taliban talks -- those can help advance the process, but the core of it is going to be negotiations among Afghans, and the level of trust on both sides is extremely low, as one would expect. So it's going to be a long, hard process if indeed it advances significantly at all,” the official said.
“So we're at the beginning of a difficult road. But there is a pre-history here as well, and I'd like to express appreciation and recognition for some of the people and governments that helped bring us this far,” he said.
“President Karzai, of course, has embraced the concept and desire for peace talks with the Taliban many years before the US government itself embraced the concept. It was Secretary Clinton in early 2011 in a speech to the Asia Society, as I recall, that first announced the administration’s support for direct negotiations with the Taliban,” the official said.
“There’s been a lot of personal diplomacy since then. We’ve already heard about the efforts that President Obama has made. Secretary (of State, John) Kerry has similarly been personally and heavily involved in this since his entering office as Secretary of State,” the official said.
“Finally, there are a number of governments that contributed significantly over the period since 2011 in bringing about this outcome. Those governments include Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom and, of course, the government of Qatar, who has agreed to actually host these talks and work closely with us in defining the purpose of the talks and arrangements for them,” the senior administration official said.
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