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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Battlefield stalemate could prompt talks with the Taliban: Tillerson

'We may not win one, but neither will you.' Rex Tillerson explains the theory behind Donald Trump's decision to send more US troops to Afghanistan

Rex Tillerson strikes a conciliatory note on talks with the Taliban. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Rex Tillerson strikes a conciliatory note on talks with the Taliban. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

The US and the Taliban may be forced to accept stalemate on the battleground with a negotiated settlement the only way to end America’s longest war, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Tuesday.

Employing a markedly softer tone on the Taliban than Donald Trump less than 12 hours earlier, Mr Tillerson acknowledged the “moderate elements” in the group who could sit down with the Afghan government to thrash out a peace deal.

“Ultimately, it comes down to two parties — the Afghan government and the Taliban representatives,” he said.

He said Mr Trump’s policy proposal to add to the 8,400 U.S. troops already in Afghanistan was aimed at securing a political settlement.

“This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban, to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory -- we may not win one, but neither will you,” Mr Tillerson said. “At some point we have to come to the negotiating table and find a way to bring this to an end.”

He hoped Pakistan would use its influence with the Taliban to bring it to the negotiating table to end the 16-year conflict.

“Pakistan and the U.S. historically had very good relationships, but over the last few years there has been a real erosion in the confidence of between our two governments” he added.