US-Taliban talks: Trump Admin's priority is to end Afghan war, says White House
The priority of the Trump Administration is to end the war in Afghanistan and to ensure the civil war-ravaged country never becomes a base for terrorism, the White House said amid reports of its negotiations with the Taliban. "Our priority is to end the war in Afghanistan and to ensure that there is never a base for terrorism in Afghanistan again," White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters on Monday at her first conference of the year.
Negotiations are going to continue, she said. Earlier, The New York Times reported that the US and Taliban have reached an agreement in principle on Afghan peace deal. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told reporters at the Pentagon that the talks with the Taliban by Special US Representatives Zalmay Khalilzad is encouraging. The Pentagon has not been asked to prepare for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, he said.
NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg to the Pentagon said that the alliance continues to remain with the United States in Afghanistan. "We welcome the talks with Taliban," he said, adding that Khalilzad briefed all allies a few weeks ago. "The reason why NATO is in Afghanistan is to create a condition for … peaceful solution to make sure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists and to send a message to Taliban that they will not win on the battlefield, so they have to sit down at the negotiating table, and therefore we are encouraged by what we see now, the progress and talks with Taliban," Stoltenberg said.
NATO, he said, is in Afghanistan to create the conditions for a peaceful, negotiated solution. "We are there to train and assist and advise the Afghan soldiers so they can take care of security and stability in Afghanistan themselves," he said. NATO will not stay longer than necessary, Stoltenberg asserted. "But we will not leave before we have a situation which enables to leave or at reduce the number of troops without jeopardizing the main goal of our presence, and that is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists once again," he said.
Responding to a question, he said it's a bit too early to speculate on the result of the negotiations. "We strongly support those efforts. Ambassador Khalilzad briefed all allies recently. We are in close contact with the United States. One of the issues we will discuss of course today is the peace efforts," he said.
(With inputs from agencies.)
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