ISLAMABAD - The United States is calling on regional countries, including Russia and Pakistan, not to support the Taliban in their bid to “perpetuate the very long war” in Afghanistan.
U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster made the remarks Sunday after talks with Afghan leaders on his first trip to Kabul since taking office.
Afghan officials said the discussions focused on bilateral security matters, fighting regional terrorism and strengthening the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, or ANDSF.
McMaster told local TOLOnews that Taliban insurgents who refuse to engage in a government-led peace and reconciliation process must be defeated on the battlefield. He said the United States is committed to strengthen Afghan forces to enable them to achieve that objective.
He would not say whether President Donald Trump will send more troops to Afghanistan once his administration concludes its review of the Afghan policy.
McMaster’s visit follows calls by U.S. military commanders for adding “a few thousand” more troops to the roughly 8,400 American troops already in Afghanistan.
“No one should support the Taliban. No one should support armed resistance against the Afghan government and the Afghan people,” the adviser said when asked to comment on Russia’s overt contacts with the Taliban.
“What we would like is all countries in the region to play a productive role, a positive role and to help the Afghan people rather than to try to perpetuate this very long conflict,” he said.
McMaster said, without elaborating, that those who are perpetuating and helping cause the Afghan violence “ought to be exposed and held accountable.”
Russia last week hosted a new round of multi-nation talks on security and peace prospects for Afghanistan. Pakistan, China, Iran, India, Afghanistan and five former Soviet Central Asian states were among the participants. The meeting ended with Moscow offering to host peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, though the insurgent group had already dismissed the conference as an event motivated by the political agendas of the organizers.
The American adviser on Monday will travel to neighboring Pakistan, which is accused of harboring Taliban sanctuaries on its soil and covertly supporting the insurgents. He emphasized the need for Islamabad to pursue its interests in Afghanistan through diplomacy and not through violence.
“As all of us have hoped for many many years, we have hoped that Pakistani leaders will understand that it is in their interest to go after these groups less selectively than they have in the past, and the best way to pursue their interests in Afghanistan and elsewhere is through diplomacy, not through the use of proxies that engage in violence,” McMaster said.
Responding to Thursday’s massive bomb attack by the U.S. military against the stronghold of Islamic State in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, McMaster said the terrorist group threatens all civilized people and must be defeated.
“Well, it is not just the bomb but it is really what our soldiers are doing every day alongside courageous Afghan soldiers, fighting Daesh, ensuring that these people who victimized women, who shoot people in hospital beds, we cannot tolerate the existence of that kind of an organization,” he said.