State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Tuesday that talks between the United States and the Taliban for a “political solution” to the security of Afghanistan will result in concessions from both sides. Within hours of that statement, the Taliban took credit for an attack in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of four Americans.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday morning that the Taliban have “claimed responsibility” for an attack on an U.S. air base in Afghanistan that resulted in the death of four Americans. This attack was facilitated after the Taliban announced the opening of offices in Qatar for the purpose of negotiations for a “political solution” in the Afghan region.
The State Department seems to have put no pre-conditions for the Taliban to come to the negotiation table and suggests that major concessions could be made to the terrorist group in an effort to bring security and stability to the region without the need for U.S. presence.
State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki left the possibility open with reporters on Tuesday that upcoming “negotiations” with the Taliban could result in the delisting from the United States’ “Most Wanted” terrorists list in order to facilitate stability in the Afghan region. When asked about the Taliban’s insistence for leaders to be removed from the “Most Wanted” list, Psaki said, “There need to be negotiations, there need to be discussions. The U.S. will have some, Afghans will have some, but I’m not going to get ahead of what the end results will be.”
QUESTION: And several Taliban leaders are on a most-wanted list. Is the U.S. moving ahead in delisting them? That has been one of the conditions for the Taliban.
MS. PSAKI: Again, this is just the first step in the process. There is a journey to go here. So it’s significant because we are taking a step in the process, but there need to be negotiations, there need to be discussions. The U.S. will have some, Afghans will have some, but I’m not going to get ahead of what the end results will be.
Psaki also told reporters that it was no a requirement for the Taliban to renounce Al Qaeda or terrorist activities before coming to the negotiating table to discuss transitions in the Afghan region. “This is not a pre-condition,” Psaki confirmed.
QUESTION: And when you look at their statement, there is that line, “will not allow anyone to use the Afghan land to threaten anyone.” So that’s the line that you’re talking about. MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. QUESTION: That’s not talking directly about the – about al-Qaida, but ultimately the U.S. wants them to very directly cut their links publicly with al-Qaida, correct? MS. PSAKI: That is the end goal, yes. QUESTION: So this is enough? MS. PSAKI: This is an important statement. This allows us to get the process started. And as you know, there are some end goals in this process. QUESTION: So just to be clear on Jill’s point, the Taliban are not required to disown, disavow, or disassociate themselves publicly with al-Qaida to have – MS. PSAKI: That is a part of the end goal of the process. QUESTION: Right. But to begin the process, to talk with them, they don’t have to do that? This is not a precondition for them participating? MS. PSAKI: Correct.
It appears that the Taliban are not even required to support the Afghan constitution before coming to the negotiation table for a “political solution” concerning the region. When asked if the Taliban were required to declare up front equal treatment of women and minorities would be an essential cornerstone of the region, Psaki claimed that it was a non-negotiable component of the upcoming agreement. However, the Taliban have yet to agree to those terms.
As Associated Press reporter Matt Lee pointed out, since agreement of equality was not a pre-condition, it was a negotiable clause. Psaki eventually became irritated with the back and forth and claimed that there was a “long process” ahead of the talks to stabilize the region.
It’s also worth noting that the Psaki accepted the premise of Lee’s assertion that the United States does not consider Afghanistan a “military victory.”
QUESTION: Where in their statement does it talk about respecting the rights of women in the Afghan constitution? MS. PSAKI: Well, that is respecting the constitution, which is an end goal of the process, is – has that included in it. QUESTION: So that’s up for negotiation? MS. PSAKI: No, it certainly is not. That’s something that we feel is vital. QUESTION: Well, then, if that – but if it’s not – I don’t get it. If they haven’t agreed to respect the constitution, then it must mean that it’s up for negotiation. MS. PSAKI: It’s not up for negotiation. That is the end goal of the process. This is just a beginning. The opening of the office is just a beginning of the process. QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean, they have to come to that conclusion. MS. PSAKI: Correct. QUESTION: Well, then I don’t get why you’re so happy because they – I mean, they’re – MS. PSAKI: I don’t – don’t indicate my – QUESTION: Well, the Secretary said – I mean, “It’s good news, we’re very pleased at what’s taken place,” and I’m not sure I get – if they haven’t agreed to do the things that you want them to do, except for these – this one statement with the two parts of it – and – but that those are still the end goal of the – I’m not – it must mean that these are things that are up for negotiation. Otherwise – MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe – they’re not up for negotiation. Those are – those were defined as the end goal of the process. QUESTION: All right. So you’re hoping that the Afghans will convince the Taliban, their brethren, to respect the constitution and the rights of minorities and women in their conversations, which means that that is up for negotiation? MS. PSAKI: It’s not up for negotiation. That is the end goal of the process of reconciliation. This is a first step in the process. I’m not overestimating or overstating what it means, but certainly, a first step is one farther step than we had just a few days ago. […] QUESTION: I guess I’m just not clear on this whole negotiation, but you have a set endpoint. This is not a surrender, clearly. You don’t believe that there’s a – clearly a military victory here, so it’s not like Germany or Japan after the Second World War. So there is, in fact, a negotiation that has to go on. But if you’ve already decided on what the end goal, the terms – obviously the end – the overreaching end goal is to have Afghanistan at peace and not a threat to anybody around it. But you – up and to that point there has to be negotiation to make it worthwhile for the Taliban. And if you don’t – if you say that – if you’ve already set out what the end goal is in terms of them having to respect the existing constitution exactly the way it’s written with the protections for minorities and women, then I don’t get how it’s a negotiation. Either you think that these are points that can be negotiated, that the Taliban have legitimate concerns that have merit and can be addressed in a negotiation, or you don’t. MS. PSAKI: Well, our outcome and what we would like to see here, as you mentioned, has not been secret. We’ve laid this out very clearly, publicly and privately. QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying that it is secret. I just don’t understand what they’re negotiating. MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re negotiating how to reconcile their efforts on both sides. QUESTION: Yeah. But the Taliban come in and the Afghans say you have to respect the constitution and every single thing that it means, and the Taliban say well, we don’t like this part or we don’t like this part. And that – but you’re saying that can’t be negotiated. So I – MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, clearly there are stakes from both sides that are prompting them to move back to the process here. I’m sure they will all have lots to say about that. QUESTION: All right. MS. PSAKI: But we feel it’s an important step forward.