Kerry: Political Deal Needed to End War in Afghanistan

Secretary of State John Kerry said the drawdown of US forces, from 140,000 to less than 10,000, and a strengthening of Afghan military and police to a combined force of 320,000 is moving “Afghanistan toward self-reliance.” However, “A political settlement negotiated with the Afghan government is the only way to end the fighting, ensure lasting stability, and achieve a full drawdown, ultimately, of international military forces,” Kerry said Wednesday in Brussels during a European Union Conference on Afghanistan. Kerry praised the recent Afghan peace agreement with warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, saying the agreement could set the stage for future peace agreements with the Taliban. He also pressed other nations to step up their involvement in Afghanistan. “I urge Russia, China, Pakistan, India, and Iran to think about the special role that they could play in this region,” he said, both in fostering economic development and in negotiating peace with the Taliban. The previous day, Kerry met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah separately. State Department spokesman John Kirby said Kerry “reiterated [the United States’] commitment to the political, social and economic development of Afghanistan” and “reaffirmed US support for an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process.” (Watch video of Kerry’s speech.)