WASHINGTON - The United States on Thursday welcomed the participation of the Afghanistan government in trilateral peace talks with the Taliban, cautioning that public statements on the issue may harm the effort.
"The news that Afghanistan has joined those reconciliation discussions is important," US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at a joint media availability with visiting German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere.
In response to question about the statement by President Hamid Karzai that US and Afghan officials recently held peace meetings with the Taliban in a three-way setting, Maiziere said: "The talks will be better the less we talk on them,"
Panetta said Karzai's statement had confirmed that Afghanistan was very much involved in the process of reconciliation. That was extremely helpful and important to determining whether or not the reconciliation drive would succeed.
The White House said it supported an Afghan-led peace process. "The principles we have put forward with regard to that process is that any Taliban who want to participate in that process and in those negotiations would have to renounce Al Qaeda … and pledge allegiance to the Afghan constitution."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the United States was part of this reconciliation process. "We keep the Afghan government abreast of any conversations that we have. But it would not be helpful to the process to name individuals or get too specified about it."
Meanwhile, the State Department also said public statements were not helpful in the peace process. "I don't think that's helpful. What we do want to emphasize is that he's now quite publicly speaking positively about the prospect for talks and about his government's willingness to try to get to a place where Afghans and Afghans are talking to each other," Victoria Nuland remarked.
She explained the dialogue was in a preliminary stage. "We have said and the secretary (of state) has made clear this whole process is at a very preliminary stage. We're still at the stage of trying to build the trust among the Afghans so that they can sit in the room and have conversations..."