WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. State Department on Wednesday said it is working to forge an international consensus behind the need for an Afghanistan peace accord even as it acknowledged that “all indications” point to the Taliban seeking a “battlefield victory.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price made the comments as envoys from the United States, China, Russia and other countries met in Doha with Taliban and Afghan government negotiators in a bid to break a deadlock in peace talks.
The Islamist insurgents pressed offensives across Afghanistan that have overrun at least eight provincial capitals, and a U.S. defense official, citing U.S. intelligence, said they could isolate Kabul in 30 days and possibly take it in 90 days.
Speaking at a briefing, Price said the Taliban are violating “the letter and the spirit” of the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban deal for a withdrawal of all American troops from the United States’ longest war.
The Taliban committed to intra-Afghan talks on a peace accord that lead to a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Price said. “All indications at least suggest the Taliban are instead pursuing a battlefield victory.”
“Attacking provincial capitals and targeting civilians is inconsistent with the spirit of the agreement,” he said.
The Taliban deny targeting civilians.
The United States has not fulfilled some of the commitments it made in the deal, including withdrawing all of its forces from Afghanistan by May 1. The last are due to depart by Aug. 31.
Price noted that U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and his Russian, Chinese and Pakistani counterparts and officials from other countries and international organizations began talks in Doha with the Taliban and Kabul negotiators on Tuesday.
“It is our intention to forge consensus and to have the international community speak with one voice” on the need for a peace deal, he said.
(Reporting by Simon Lewis, Humeyra Pamuk, Jonathan Landay and David Brunnstrom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)