US urges Taliban to lay down arms, end war in Afghanistan to stop civilian deaths

Kabul: The top US military official in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson and US Ambassador Hugo Llorens on Thursday urged the Taliban to lay down arms and end the war.

The rebels were unlikely to win against America's new strategy on Afghanistan and should join the peace process, commander of US Forces and NATO General Nicholson said in Kabul at a joint press conference with Llorens after President Donald Trump late on Monday committed to an open-ended involvement of the US in the Afghan conflict, including sending more troops to the conflict-torn country, Efe news agency reported.

File image of the US Army in Afghanistan. AP

File image of the US Army in Afghanistan. AP

Nicholson called the Taliban "a criminal organisation", who were more "interested in profits from drugs and kidnappings", for which "90 percent of the people of Afghanistan believe a return to the Taliban rule would be bad for the country."

"The Taliban have a simple choice: stop fighting against your countrymen. Stop killing innocent civilians. Stop bringing hardship and misery," said Nicholson.

"We must maintain pressure on the Taliban to join a peace process with the Afghan government to end the war in Afghanistan," Llorens said.

Following Trump's announcement, the Taliban warned the US that if it did not withdraw from the country, Afghanistan will become "the 21st-century graveyard for the American empire".

The deployment of new troops, which could be around 4,000 soldiers, although Trump was yet to specify the exact number, would add to the 8,400 US soldiers already stationed in the country.

Trump's decision marks a complete shift from the policy of former President Barack Obama's administration (2009-2017), which after having deployed around 1,00,000 soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010, had opted for a phased withdrawal of troops.

Both Nicholson and Llorens also urged Pakistan to stop sheltering the Taliban on its territory.

"The dialogue with Pakistan will be done in private and has already started," Nicholson said, adding that elimination of Taliban safe havens was key to the success of the new policy.

According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report released this month, the war in Afghanistan was stagnant with insurgents controlling 40 percent of the country.

Updated Date: Aug 24, 2017 22:58 PM

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