WASHINGTON - A State Department spokesperson has parried a question about the reported Taliban praise for India's resistance to US calls for greater military involvement in Afghanistan, and instead shifted focus on the "huge role" New Delhi was playing in that war-torn country.
"Frankly, I didn’t see the Taliban’s comments. I’m sorry," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said at the daily press briefing in response to a question about the Taliban statement, which was widely published here. But, she added, "We are pleased with the support that India is giving to strengthen security, stability, prosperity in Afghanistan."
"The US was also appreciative of "the economic support that it's giving; the support that it's giving to the Afghan National Security Forces, including in police training," she said.
Asked by Indian correspondents whether the US would involve India in the talks, Nuland, Said: "India has joined us in calling for Afghan-Afghan reconciliation and a process to do that. I'm not aware that anybody has asked India to play a direct role in that, though."
Further asked if there was a discussion between India and US at their strategic dialogue here last week about New Delhi playing a larger role in Afghanistan after the 2014 drawdown of US led forces, Nuland said: "Well, India is playing a huge role."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had taken note of India's "some $2 billion worth of investment", she said. "We're also encouraged by the East-West Road Project that India is sponsoring, which we think can play a strong role in increasing trade and investment across the region."
"We've encouraged the police training programme. So all of these things are good steps and they help knit the region together in a democratic direction."
The US itself has done a lot of work with Afghan forces, Nuland said. When a journalist pointed out that US had little control over Afghanistan's south, Nuland said, "There have been manifest improvements in the security situation there, and now we're in the process of turning many of those areas over to Afghan leadership, in line with the 2014 process."
Pressed on the lack of US control in the south, she said, "We're still having some skirmishes in the south, but overall security has improved greatly in the south. And the Afghans are in far better security control in much of the south as compared to two years ago, if you will."
The Taliban's praise of India came in a commentary on its English language website. Calling India "a significant country in the region," it said Indians were well aware of the "aspirations, creeds and love for freedom" of the Afghan people.