The United States on Monday once again called on the Taliban to join the peace talks in a bid to prevent another upsurge in fighting this spring.
This comes after the Taliban said on Saturday it would not take part in peace talks with the Afghan government, citing its long standing demand that all foreign troops must first leave Afghanistan.
But Afghan officials on Monday downplayed the rejection as a “tactical” move by the Taliban, and said they still hope to resume talks.
“They have a choice,” said State Department spokesman John Kirby. “Rather than continuing to fight their fellow Afghans and destabilizing their country, they should engage in a peace process and ultimately become a legitimate part of the political system of a sovereign, united Afghanistan.”
“There is and should be a sense of urgency around getting these talks up and running,” Kirby said. “If there’s no peace process in place…we would and the Afghan security forces would have to prepare themselves for the potential for increased violence in the spring and summer months.
“It’s the so-called fighting season, and we’ve seen this before, when the weather warms up… I want to stress that’s not what we want to see.”
It was expected that face-to-face talks were expected to start in Islamabad this week.
The Taliban’s seemingly intractable position follows a string of military victories for the insurgent group after NATO formally ended its combat operations more than a year ago.
“We want to repeat our stance once again that until the occupation of foreign troops ends, until Taliban names are removed from international blacklists and until our detainees are released, talks will yield no results,” the Taliban statement said.
On Monday, President Ashraf Ghani at a graduation ceremony for cadets at the Marshal Fahim National Defense University (MFNDU) once again warned insurgents that they will face the full wrath of the security forces if they don’t lay down their arms.
“If someone wants peace we will be ready to make peace with them, but for those who want war, we will eliminate them,” Ghani said.
He said: “Don’t forget that this war is imposed on us and the insurgents are attacking the mosques, killing the children and targeting our schools.”
He called on the Taliban to separate themselves from insurgents. “If you are Afghans, join the peace process”. Adding that if they don’t they will face a massive response from the security forces.
He also told to the military forces “to be ready for a worse situation but also have hope” for the future and said “you are the future of Afghanistan’s military.”