Afghan officials issued a flurry of statements Tuesday rejecting talk of the US holding direct talks with the Taliban, saying that any negotiations would have to be led by the Afghan government. Deputy spokesman Omid Maisam said the US could only participate as a “facilitator” to the talks.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar says the US told him of plans to talk with the Taliban, and that he said it was preferable to do it in the framework of inter-Afghan dialogue. Taliban officials have said they were not contacted by the US about any talks at all.
While Secretary of State Mike Pompeo didn’t necessarily suggest the talks would happen outside of Afghan talks, Gen. John Nicholson issued a statement afterwards backing away from his own comments to that effect, saying that his comments were “mischaracterised.”
The Nicholson statement said that the US position is that they are ready to talk with the Afghan government and the Taliban toward a lasting peace. While it was light on specifics, it gave lip-service to the idea of an Afghan-led process.