US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells has said that she has been told by her friends in the Afghan government that the Taliban are part of the social fabric of Afghanistan, and believe in the nationhood of country.
Speaking to the Afghan news agency TOLO News, the US diplomat sought to quash rumours regarding her presence in Kabul, telling a news anchor that she was here in advance of the Kabul peace process.
“The US wants to consult with the Afghan government over how it can support their efforts to promote a politically negotiated settlement in the wake of what have been a series of heinous attacks against the civilian population,” she said.
Commenting on the recent uptick in violence in the war-torn country, Wells admitted that the conditions of the region were not “terribly right”, especially as a wave of bombings have ripped through the Afghan capital over the past several weeks.
“Ultimately the solution to Afghanistan security and stability will lie in a political resolution and not on the military battlefield. Until then, we are going to pressure Taliban and support the Afghan security forces,” the US official was quoted as saying.
Fielding questions regarding the new US strategy for the region, and the role of Pakistan, Wells remarked that President Trump was clear in August when he announced the South Asia strategy that he saw this as an opportunity for Pakistan to secure its legitimate interests through support for a negotiated settlement.
“We see the strategy as an opportunity for Pakistan. The fact that President Trump made the decision to suspend military assistance to Pakistan reflects the level of disappointment that we have not seen more aggressive efforts by Pakistan to disrupt the ability of Taliban to operate across the border,” she maintained.
Asked to elaborate further, the diplomat said that Pakistan needed to be a part of the solution.
“As we continue our dialogue, and we have a very important dialogue with Pakistan, it is to achieve the mutual interests of both countries. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan benefit from peace,” she explained.
Wells was of the opinion that the insecurity that had been bred in Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past forty years had been destabilizing for all the countries and has set back the region.
“When you look at levels of inter regional trade and development, war has affected Afghanistan and its neighbours as well.”
Pressed to clairify the position of her country as the Afghan insurgency intensified, Wells said that the US took recent attacks in Kabul as a mark of desperation, and a mark of success in the battlefield against the Taliban.
“It is quite striking that the Taliban have claimed credit for an attack that targeted civilians in Kabul. It is testament to the fact that right now, elements of the Taliban simply are not prepared for peace,” she said.
“That does not alleviate from us the responsibility of trying to think through what is the vision of peace and what are the principles that will drive the peace process,” Wells added.
Commending the efforts of the Kabul government for a negotiated solution to the conflict, the US diplomat noted that it took tremendous courage on part of the Afghan President Ghani to go against the domestic backlash to these bombings, and continue to stand for peace.
“I am told by my Afghan friends that Taliban are part of the social fabric of Afghanistan. The Taliban say they believe in the nationhood of Afghanistan, in contrast to other militant groups like Islamic State,” the US envoy said.
Aice Wells dismissed reports that the Islamic State was expanding its presence in Afghanistan.
“I do not think the influence of Islamic State (IS) is increasing. With the support of coalition forces, Afghan forces have been targeting IS and we have seen their presence shrink,” she underlined.
“We have seen IS elements appear elsewhere in Afghanistan, but you are going to see a sustained campaign against the militant group. After defeating IS in its core home territory of Iraq and Syria, no one in the international community can afford to see IS take root elsewhere,” Wells told the Afghan media outlet.