Alice Wells, a U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of South and Central Asian affairs, told reporters in Washington on March 5 that Ghani is not demanding “surrender” by the Taliban, as a Taliban spokesman has said.
“I heard him offering a dignified process,” she said. “This is not a surrender that’s being offered to the Taliban, but a dignified process for reaching a political framework.”
Ghani at an international conference in Kabul last week offered to allow the Taliban to establish itself as a political party and said he would work to remove sanctions on the militant group, among other incentives, if it joined the government in peace negotiations.
But the Taliban since Ghani’s offer on February 28 has continued to reject direct peace talks with the government and has insisted it will only negotiate with the United States, which it calls a “foreign occupying force.” The Taliban also insists that NATO forces must withdraw before negotiations can begin.
The United States has refused to withdraw troops as demanded by the Taliban and has insisted that any negotiations must be between the Taliban and Kabul.
Wells said Ghani’s offer showed the Afghan government has “listened carefully” to the Taliban and is being responsive to a number of the militants’ requests.
Ghani’s offer was “quite forward-leaning, and frankly I think probably caught the Taliban by surprise,” Wells said. “This was quite a courageous offer.”
“We certainly encourage the Taliban to take this offer seriously. It does put the onus on the Taliban to respond,” she said