Tillerson sees place for Taliban in Afghan government

Tillerson sees place for Taliban in Afghan government

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE on Monday said there is room in the Afghan government for moderate voices from the Taliban.

“Clearly, we have to continue the fight against the Taliban and against others in order for them to understand they will never win a military victory,” Tillerson told reporters in Afghanistan. “And there are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever.

“So we are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government. There’s a place for them in the government if they’re ready to come renouncing terrorism, renouncing violence and being committed to a stable, prosperous Afghanistan.”

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Tillerson was speaking to reporters during an unannounced stop in Afghanistan, his first there as secretary of State. His visit was part of a larger overseas trip that also includes stops in India and Pakistan, countries that President Trump has pegged as key to his Afghanistan strategy.

It has long been the position of the U.S. government that the war in Afghanistan will only end with an Afghan-led peace process between the government and the Taliban.

In congressional hearings earlier this month, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital | Mattis, Tillerson reportedly opposed move | Pentagon admits 2,000 US troops are in Syria | Trump calls on Saudis to 'immediately' lift Yemen blockade Trump has yet to name ambassadors to key nations in Mideast Mattis, Tillerson warned Trump of security concerns in Israel embassy move MORE reaffirmed that reconciliation is the goal of the U.S. strategy there.

“That's the desired outcome from our military operations,” Mattis said. “Convincing our foes that the coalition is committed to a conditions based outcome, we intend to drive fence sitters and those who will see that we're not quitting this fight, to reconcile with the Afghan national government. Our goal is a stabilized Afghanistan achieved through an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process.”

In his remarks Monday, Tillerson reiterated that “we’re here to stay until” reconciliation.

“It’s not an unlimited commitment,” Tillerson continued. Trump’s “also made it clear it’s not a blank-check commitment. That’s why it is a conditions-based commitment.”

Tillerson, who will be in Islamabad on Tuesday, also delivered a blunt warning to Pakistan to step up its efforts fighting terrorism, saying the U.S. relationship with Pakistan will also be “conditions-based.”

“Pakistan needs to, I think, take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they’re confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organizations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan,” he said. “And so we want to work closely with Pakistan to create a more stable and secure Pakistan as well.”