Brussels, Belgic.- NATO threw its weight Friday behind Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of peace talks to the Taliban, embracing what top officials said is an “unprecedented” opportunity to end the conflict in the insurgency-wracked country.
NATO foreign ministers issued a statement saying the 29 allies “are united in their support for this proposal,” and that they would respect a political settlement that ends violence.
Ghani has offered the extremist Islamic movement unconditional peace talks accompanied by a cease-fire, recognition of them as a political party and the release of some prisoners, among other incentives.
NATO is even open to discussions between Kabul and the Taliban on the future role of the international community in the country. The Taliban have insisted that international troops leave.
“Despite the fact that they have not yet taken up the president’s offer, we urge the Taliban to take part in an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after the meeting in Brussels.
He also urged Pakistan to prevent attacks across their common border and called on Russia and Iran to contribute to regional stability.
Ghani’s offer, if accepted, might eventually offer the United States and its allies a way to end the 15-year-long NATO-led presence in Afghanistan. It has been one of the most expensive wars in U.S. history, costing between $800 billion and $1 trillion, according to various estimates.
According to the website icasualties, it has also cost the lives of around 3,400 troops — some 2,300 of them from the U.S. — since 2003, when NATO took charge of the international military effort in Afghanistan, its most ambitious operation ever.