Come to table or face defeat, Carter tells Taliban
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): In a blunt message to the new Taliban leadership, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday said they had the option of either coming to the table for peace talks or be defeated on the battlefield.
“The alternative to coming across and making peace with the government is their certain defeat on the battlefield. That's the environment in which we intend to put them in,” Carter told reporters travelling with him in Newport, Rhode Island.
A sensible leader of the Taliban would conclude that they could not succeed by arms alone, he said, waiting to see whether or not the new Taliban leader made that conclusion. Obviously, he recalled, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada’s predecessor did not draw that conclusion,” he said in response to a question.
America’s future plan in Afghanistan was to reduce the overall footprint of US forces there, but they going to stay there for a long time, the secretary said, pledging support to the Afghan security forces.
“We have the funding, which we're going to continue to give them, the NATO allies have indicated that they would continue to fund the Afghan Security Forces and that's the most critical thing,” he said.
“And then, of course, we'll be there for the purposes of supporting the Afghan security forces and also our counterterrorism mission. That's not going away next year,” Carter continued.
Meanwhile, the State Department hoped that Akhundzada would choose peace and join the Afghan-led talks. “We would hope that he would seize the opportunity,” the State Department deputy spokesman said.
Mark Toner told reporters at his daily news conference Akhundzada had an opportunity to choose peace and work towards a negotiated solution. The Taliban leader would makes that choice, he believed.
Akhundzada is not on any terrorist list. But Toner did not respond to questions if the Taliban head was the target of US forces in Afghanistan. “I'm not going to predict who we might target in the national security interest of the United States,” he said.
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