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With Bolton out, Taliban now want to return to negotiations with US

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo joins President Donald J. Trump for a working lunch with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27, 2019. (State Department photo by Ron Przysucha)
September 13, 2019

The Taliban would like to restart stalled peace talks following the news of national security advisor John Bolton’s departure from the Trump administration.

Two days after Bolton’s exit, the Taliban issued a call on Thursday for renewed peace talks to end the 18 year-long war in Afghanistan, adding that they will continue fighting if peace talks don’t resume, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“We want resolution, not escalation of the issue—that is why we concluded the peace agreement with [the] U.S.,” a Taliban spokesman in Qatar said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “In our view, peaceful solution of the Afghan issue is the best solution.”

The spokesman also reportedly said the Taliban is prepared to keep fighting if peace talks do not continue.

“If U.S. opts for continuation of the war, they will find us in the field strong and unwavering as ever,” the spokesman said.

The Taliban statement is the latest in troubled peace talks with the U.S. that have been interrupted by Taliban attacks.

In a series of tweets, President Donald Trump had announced Saturday he had canceled plans to meet the Taliban’s negotiators at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, citing the recent attack in the Afghan capital of Kabul where a Taliban car bomb killed a U.S. soldier and 11 others.

On Monday the Taliban vowed “Americans will suffer” due to Trump’s decision to suspend the talks.

In a comment that same day to CBS News, Trump said the peace talks are “dead.”

The Tuesday news of Bolton’s departure may have thrown a new twist in the negotiations as it led some to speculate there would be a softened stance in negotiations between the U.S. and other countries, including Afghanistan.

Bolton and Trump had apparently disagreed on what stance to take with adversary countries, such as North Korea and Iran. Bolton was reportedly one of Trump’s advisors that advocated airstrikes against Iran, which Trump called off.

During a Wednesday speech on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that instigated the still-ongoing war in Afghanistan, Trump said U.S. forces would “hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before and that will continue.”

Issues in the negotiations with the Taliban have persisted through the process. Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reportedly refused to sign the deal with the Taliban.

The deal reportedly would have been between the U.S. and the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the name of the Taliban government in Afghanistan which U.S. forces overthrew at the beginning of the war. The deal may have been a ploy to earn greater legitimacy for the Taliban government, over the U.S. backed government in Kabul.

It is uncertain how Afghan president Ashraf Ghani feels about the peace negotiation.

Though Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan’s president in Kabul, has issued tentative public support to a peace deal, TIME reported aides of Ghani heard the Afghan president and U.S. envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad arguing over the deliberations.