US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Saturday that the United States will make sure it has a “good deal” with the Taliban on which the two sides have “agreed in principle”.
“We will make sure we have a good deal, a good enough deal that guarantees at least the security of countries going forward and a brighter path ahead for the Afghan people,” Mr. Esper said at a press conference in Paris with his French counterpart.
This comes as the Afghan government has expressed frustration over the US-Taliban peace agreement which was agreed in principle after nine rounds of talks between eh two sides.
“The United States’ view is that the best way forward is a political agreement and that (is what) we’re working diligently on right now, that doesn’t mean we’ll take any deal,” Mr. Esper said.
Mr. Esper in another press conference with his British counterpart said that the US believes that the way forward out the 18-year-long conflict is through political agreement.
“We’re hopeful we’ll get there, but we’ve got to see where where where it goes. The one thing that we’ve I’ve talked to our allies about,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ben Wallace, UK Minister of Defense, said that both governments will make sure whatever happens it is not going to be at the cost of security of the US, the UK and their allies.
“Whatever the final Afghanistan looks like he’s got to make sure that it doesn’t put at risk the United States and Britain security,” he said.
Since his appointment to the post in September, US chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad held nine rounds of talks with the Taliban in Doha and the UAE. However, during this period, there have been conflicting reports about the US’s intention of bringing sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
In an interview with TOLOnews last week, Mr. Khalilzad said the United States and the Taliban have reached “agreed in principle” on a deal, but added that it is not final until US President Trump agrees on it.
Mr. Khalilzad said that based on the draft agreement, the US will withdraw 5,000 troops from five bases in Afghanistan within 135 days if conditions in the agreement are addressed by the Taliban.
On May 9, the sixth round of US-Taliban talks ended in the Qatari capital, Doha. The talks so far have been focused on four key issues: US forces withdrawal, counterterrorism assurances, a ceasefire, and intra-Afghan negotiations.
Last week, the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington is not seeking a permanent military presence in Afghanistan after the Taliban said they are close to finalizing a peace agreement with the United States.
The Afghan conflict has cost almost 2,400 American lives and hundreds of billions in taxpayer dollars. As the war approaches its 18th year, 14,000 US troops are still in Afghanistan and senior intelligence officials have repeatedly warned that the country remains fragile and could once again become a terrorist haven.