Afghan peace talks among top priorities for US – State Dept.

Jump-starting peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban is among the highest US foreign policy priorities, a senior State Department official told lawmakers Wednesday.

“Helping to jump-start an Afghan peace process is among Secretary Pompeo’s highest priorities, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“The United States is prepared to support, facilitate, and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban,” Wells said.

The US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies believe prospects for peace have risen since the recent start of a cease-fire in Afghanistan of the Eid holiday, the first in 17 years.

At a briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Lieutenant General Richard Cripwell, Deputy commander for Resolute Support, a NATO-led train, advise and assist mission in Afghanistan, called President Ashraf Ghani’s statement calling for a cease-fire “extraordinarily courageous” and “shows just how serious the desire for peace is here in Afghanistan.” Despite the government cease-fire, Taliban reportedly killed 30 security forces in an ambush on two checkpoints in the western province of Badghis.

“We are disappointed that the Taliban decided not to continue, and chose instead to return to war,” Cripwell told reporters.

Asked about the prospect of the Taliban re-engaging in another cease-fire, Cripwell responded, “As for what can happen in the future, clearly I don’t have a crystal ball for that. But I cannot understate the sense of optimism that is in the country at the moment

Source: Kuwait News Agency