Peace Talks a Function of Afghan Government

WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2010 — The Afghan peo­ple have the lead role in the rec­on­cil­i­a­tion talks with the Tal­iban, and the Unit­ed States serves only as a facil­i­ta­tor, specif­i­cal­ly for the safe trans­porta­tion of peo­ple to meet with the Afghan gov­ern­ment, the Pentagon’s top spokesman said today on MSNBC.
“We’ve also said for a long time the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion on the ground has to change a lit­tle more before we see real progress in terms of high-lev­el rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” said Pen­ta­gon Press Sec­re­tary Geoff Mor­rell.

Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates sup­ports “keep­ing the pres­sure on the Tal­iban even more than we already are, change the dynam­ic on the ground even more than it already has, so they final­ly feel the pres­sure enough to final­ly come to the nego­ti­at­ing table,” Mor­rell said.

The depar­ture of U.S. troops from Afghanistan is slat­ed to begin in July 2011, but U.S. forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond that date until 2014, Mor­rell said.

“[July 2011] is the begin­ning of a process, con­di­tion-based, to draw down forces for exit­ing in 2014,” he said. “Any­body who’s fol­lowed this close­ly knows this was not going to end in 2011. The pres­i­dent nev­er sug­gest­ed such. We always knew this was going to be a lengthy process. There’s far more work to be done than we can achieve in the next eight months.” Mor­rell said the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan is improv­ing.

“We’re see­ing a lot more rein­te­gra­tion, [such as] low-lev­el fight­ers giv­ing up and want­i­ng to end their alliance with the Tal­iban, and join the gov­ern­ment,” he said.

Turn­ing to anoth­er top­ic, Mor­rell said rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the New Strate­gic Arms Reduc­tion Treaty is vital to nation­al secu­ri­ty.

“On the mer­its, if START is defeat­ed it would be a big set­back for us in terms of nation­al secu­ri­ty,” he said. “We would have no ver­i­fi­ca­tion, as we don’t right now, of what the Rus­sians and nuclear forces are up to. We’d have to divert intel­li­gence assets that are bad­ly need­ed else­where, to mon­i­tor what they are doing on the ground.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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