WASHINGTON -- The Afghan government must be involved in talks between the United States and the Taliban if a push for a peace deal is to succeed, a top US general said Tuesday (February 5).
A months-long drive by the United States to engage with the Taliban has been aimed at persuading them to talk to Kabul.
"Ultimately, we need to get to a Taliban-Afghanistan discussion," Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of US Central Command, told US lawmakers. "Only they will be able to resolve the key issues involved in the dispute."
The development comes as US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad continues efforts towards a peace deal with the Taliban.
"I would characterise where we are in the process as very, very early," Votel said.
"Ambassador Khalilzad is attempting to create a framework by which we can move forward with discussions," he said. "That would be certainly involving the government of Afghanistan."
President Ashraf Ghani said he had spoken to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who "underscored the central importance of ensuring the centrality of the Afghan government in the peace process".
"Secretary Pompeo stressed that there is no uncertainty and ambiguity about the US commitment to Afghanistan and our enduring partnership," Ghani tweeted Tuesday.
"The Secretary also stressed that our military partnership is unwavering and will remain until a lasting and inclusive peace is achieved," he said. "We both agreed that words, rumours, and speculations cannot replace actions and that our partnership and resolve will remain strong in the pursuit of peace."