U.S. Department of State
Office of The Spokesperson
For Immediate Release
June 25, 2019
U.S. Embassy Kabul
SECRETARY POMPEO: Good afternoon, everyone. With so much going on in the world right now, sometimes it’s easy to forget about America’s commitment here in Afghanistan, but the world should know that the Trump administration hasn’t forgotten and the American people have not forgotten. We must represent their interests here as ardently as ever. That’s why it was a critical time for me to make it back to Afghanistan.
There have been a number of errant, sometimes different, reports over the past few months about American diplomacy regarding Afghanistan. I want to make sure today to set the record straight.
As President Trump has said, after almost now two decades of war in Afghanistan, the hour has come for peace. For the last nine months, the United States has facilitated a peace process intent on protecting our national interests while convening all the parties for inter-Afghan negotiations that will allow Afghans to fashion a political settlement and determine the future for their country.
In my meeting with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, we agreed that peace is our highest priority and that Afghanistan must never again serve as a platform for international terrorism. I thanked President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah for their long-term partnership and support for Special Representative Khalilzad on these important issues.
As you’re aware, the United States and the Taliban reached an agreement in principle in January that any comprehensive peace agreement must address four interconnected issues: counterterrorism, foreign troop presence, inter-Afghan dialogue leading to inter-Afghan negotiations, as well as a permanent ceasefire.
Regarding terrorism, we have made real progress and are nearly ready to conclude a draft text outlining the Taliban’s commitments to join fellow Afghans in ensuring that Afghan soil never again becomes a safe haven for terrorists. In light of this progress, we’ve begun discussions with the Taliban regarding foreign military presence, which today remains conditions-based. And while we’ve made clear to the Taliban that we are prepared to remove our forces, I want to be clear we have not yet agreed on a timeline to do so. This should come as no surprise, but sometimes our adversaries announce things that just aren’t true.
I want to reassure you that we hold detailed discussions with the Government of Afghanistan in parallel with our talks with the Taliban. Ambassador Bass, General Miller, Ambassador Khalilzad have worked diligently to ensure that we are fully aligned in our approach, and it was great to be here today with President Ghani.
All sides agree that finalizing a U.S.-Taliban understanding on terrorism and foreign troop presence will open the door to inter-Afghan dialogue and negotiation. That next step is at the heart of our effort. We are not and will not negotiate with the Taliban on behalf of the government or people of Afghanistan. Rather, we’re working to bring Afghans together at the negotiating table to decide the future of their own country collectively. And when that table is put together, it will be a large table. It’s crucial to include not just the Taliban and the government but also representatives from opposition parties, civil society, including women and youth.
As for our next diplomatic steps, we welcome Germany’s commitment with Qatar to convene an inter-Afghan dialogue next month. This is an opportunity for Afghans to endorse the urgent need for inter-Afghan negotiations.
Simultaneously, the United States is laying the groundwork for inter-Afghan negotiations to begin as soon as possible. The objective of those negotiations is for Afghans to agree on a timeline and a political roadmap for reaching a comprehensive peace agreement. It’s not America’s role to dictate the outcome of those negotiations.
We have been clear that the success or failure of the bilateral relationship and Afghanistan’s relationship with the international community, including the donor community, will rest in part on what Afghans do to maintain the civil rights of women and minorities and preserve the gains of the last 18 years.
I share that, but I’m not just sharing the views of the United States. Our words today reflect an international consensus for peace. My thanks go out to neighboring countries who have supported the process, and which stand to benefit tremendously from regional integration that will surely follow from peace.
We also appreciate the support of our NATO allies and our partners who serve alongside us in Resolute Support, whose ongoing commitment to the people of Afghanistan will be critical in the post-peace era. The trilateral consensus that we issued in partnership with China and Russia as well as the principles issued by the United States-Europe Group are further signs of the international community’s support for this peace process.
Pakistan has a particularly important role to play in this process and in the promotion of peace and stability in the region. Progress has been made, and we will continue to look to Pakistan for practical measures, cooperation on peace talks, and the implementation of any agreement.
Now I’ve said the word “peace” more than half a dozen times. It’s our priority. But the pursuit of peace should not wait until the Afghan presidential election. Election planning must go forward without delay as we pursue the peace that Afghans deserve. I urge the Afghan Government, the Independent Election Commission, and all political stakeholders to take all necessary steps to ensure that the elections are credible.
As we work to facilitate a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan, we are also working with the Afghan Government and the international community to lay the groundwork for a stable and prosperous post-settlement future for Afghanistan. That’s why today, beyond the meetings that I had at the palace, I had a number of internal meetings today to dig into plans for our future robust diplomatic, security, and development presence. The United States will help Afghans preserve the gains of the past 18 years by supporting state civilian governments and their traditions on self-reliance.