The White House has said that the onus of responsibility of the peace process is now on the Taliban and it needs to acknowledge that it cannot achieve its objectives on the battlefield, a day after Afghan government offered a temporary ceasefire.
Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani announced the ceasefire with the Taliban after the country's Islamic Council issued an edict that forbade suicide bombing and had urged the group to join peace efforts.
"President Ghani's remarks at the Kabul Process conference combined with the announcement of the ceasefire initiative demonstrate the Afghan governments willingness to undertake difficult steps toward a political settlement," said Lisa Curtis, the Deputy Assistant to the US President and Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the National Security Council.
"The onus of responsibility is now on the Taliban to respond positively, so a peace process begins with all sides sitting down at the table," said Curtis said.
The US is ready to participate in the discussion but it cannot serve as a substitute for the Afghan government and the Afghan people, Curtis said in her keynote address to an event 'The Long Search for Peace in Afghanistan' organised by the US Institute of Peace.
Reiterating that no one believes that there is a military solution to this conflict, she said that military force plays a role in helping to set conditions for an ultimate peace settlement.
We also believe that the Taliban will have to accept that they cannot achieve their own objectives on the battlefield, she said.
Of course, we recognise the scope of the challenge with which we are faced. One positive point that we can look at today is the consensus within the Afghan government on the necessity for a peace process. Given the sheer brutality of this conflict and attacks by the Taliban and the Haqqani network, including those that have recently taken place in Kabul, a natural reaction would be to pull back from talking about peace, she said.
"However, as we saw in today's courageous ceasefire announcement, our Afghan partners are sustaining their focus and pursuing with persistence the goal of a peaceful solution," Curtis said.
A political settlement must be negotiated through a process that is Afghan-led and Afghan-owned. Unfortunately, the Taliban spring offensive announcement and wave of heinous attacks, especially those we've seen in Kabul call into question the Taliban's interest in a peace process, she said.
The Taliban must understand that it can only achieve its goals at the negotiating table, and let me assure you that the US, for its part, prioritizes the pursuit of a peace process, Curtis said and assured the audience that the US, for its part, prioritizes the pursuit of a peace process.
Later a senior State Department official in a conference call with reporters said that in offering this ceasefire opportunity, Ghani is responding to and indeed reflecting the desire of a wide cross-section of Afghans both geographically, ethnically, and in terms of both urban and rural populations in desiring to see a reduction in violence and a way forward to an end to the conflict.
We're calling on and looking to the Taliban to respond favorably, and we certainly hope that other countries who have supported the Afghan Government's efforts to promote a peaceful settlement to the conflict would also be encouraging them to do so, the official said.
I think the fact that the Taliban has not yet rejected the offer just as they have not formally rejected President Ghani's offer of a settlement process provided back in February at the Kabul Process indicates they may be prepared to entertain it and observe it. And we certainly hope that will be the case, but we'll have to wait and see how they respond, the official said.
The Taliban, the official said, have an opportunity here to respond to calls from a wide cross-section of Afghans asking for a reduction in violence, which would show that it's possible in the course of this long conflict to reduce violence.
"Obviously, it would be better in the long term if a ceasefire stemmed from a negotiated political settlement, but a temporary ceasefire for an Eid certainly doesn't preclude that possibility down the road and hopefully helps contribute to realizing that objective," the State Department official said.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan's envoy to the US has said that the country wants peace and it is working hard towards it but the Taliban has brought death and destruction.
"Afghans want peace and my generation are taking risks to stand for it. These Afghans and our security forces are our heroes. And we must say what has the Taliban put on the table: further death and destruction," the Afghan Ambassador to the US, Hamdullah Mohib, said in his address to a conference.
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