Afghanistan Says Taliban Will Have to Be Defeated on the Battlefield

KABUL/PESHAWAR (Reuters) -

Afghanistan announced Tuesday that the Taliban would have to be defeated, after U.S. President Donald Trump rejected the idea of talks with the militants following the recent deadly attacks.

The Taliban responded to Trump’s announcement saying that they never wanted to talk to the United States anyway, but one senior member of the group said he suspected efforts would still be made to start negotiations.

Talking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump condemned the militant group for the recent carnage in Kabul and said the United States was not prepared to talk now. He pledged to “finish what we have to finish.”

His comments suggested he sees a military victory over the Taliban, an outcome that U.S. military and diplomatic officials say cannot be achieved with the resources and manpower he has authorized.

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that while the government had encouraged the Taliban to talk, the attacks in Kabul, including a suicide bomb attack on Saturday that killed more than 100 people, crossed a “red line.”

“We have to look for peace on the battlefield. They have to be marginalized,” said the spokesman, Shah Hussain Murtazawi.

He declined to comment directly on Trump’s announcement.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said in a statement that Taliban fighters would respond in kind if the Americans wanted to focus on war: “If you emphasize war then our mujahideen will not welcome you with flowers.”

A Taliban member who declined to be identified said that “President Trump is saying this for public consumption. He and his team are making every effort to bring us to the negotiating table.”