U.S., Afghanistan Agree on Need to Accelerate Peace Talks

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The U.S. and Afghanistan agreed this week to accelerate a peace process to end the 18-year war and continue existing U.S. policies aimed at reducing the American troop presence as conditions permit, the two countries said in a joint statement.

The statement followed a phone call on Wednesday between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, and stressed that “there has been no change to President Trump’s South Asia strategy.”

The assurance followed an appearance on Monday by Mr. Trump in which he said, “If I wanted to win that war, Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth.” He added he wouldn’t take such a step because he didn’t want to kill 10 million people.

Mr. Trump’s comments came during a July 22 appearance with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who pledged to help in U.S. efforts to strike a peace deal with Taliban insurgents.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus told reporters on Thursday that the U.S. has demonstrated its commitment to Afghanistan over nearly two decades of military intervention. She alluded to the thousands of American and allied lives lost and billions of taxpayer dollars spent on the fight in Afghanistan.

There are around 14,000 U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan.

The U.S. since last year has pressed for talks with Taliban leaders and encouraged negotiations between Afghan leaders and the Taliban. The latest talks took place this month in Qatar.

Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, met this week with top Afghanistan leaders. He met Mr. Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said his spokesman, Air Force Col. Pat Ryder.

Gen. Dunford also met with Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy leading the peace talks, and received an update on the U.S.-led campaign against the Taliban, which U.S. officials have said they hope will influence the talks.

Gen. Dunford didn’t publicly address Mr. Trump’s comments, but allied officials around the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Kabul privately fretted over the president’s remarks, which came as the multinational force is working to train what they describe as a constantly improving Afghan national-security force.

The State Department said Mr. Khalilzad would hold consultations with the Afghan government and members of civil society. Following his talks in Kabul, he is scheduled to meet with Taliban representatives in Doha.

Write to Courtney McBride at courtney.mcbride@wsj.com and Nancy A. Youssef at nancy.youssef@wsj.com

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