WASHINGTON - Despite reports that the new Afghan Taliban leader , Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, has rejected peace talks with the Afghan government, the United States has urged him to opt for negotiations to end the war in Afghanistan.

“He (Akhundzada) does have an opportunity in front of him to choose peace and to work towards a negotiated solution," US State Department’s Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters at the daily press briefing on Wednesday.

"We hope that he makes that choice now,” he said in response to a question. "We would hope that he would seize the opportunity," Toner added.

Akhundzada, a religious scholar, was appointed as the new leader of the Taliban after the death of Mullah Akhtar Mansour in a US drone strike in Balochistan on Saturday.

In one of the first acts as the supreme leader of the militant group, Akhundzada declared there would be no return to peace talks with the government. “No, no we will not come to any type of peace talks ,” he reportedly said.

khundzada is not in any terrorist designated list, Toner said, but did not respond to questions if he is on the target of the US forces in Afghanistan. “I’m not going to predict who we might target in the national security interest of the US,” he said.

Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter hoped that better sense would prevail on the new Taliban leadership headed by Akhundzada.

“We’ll have to see what new Taliban leadership concludes. Obviously, the conclusion that they should draw is that they cannot win,” Carter told reporters travelling with him at Newport in Rhode Island.

Carter said that the Afghan Security Forces, aided by the US, are going to be stronger than them. “Therefore, the alternative to coming across and making peace with the government is their certain defeat on the battlefield. That’s the environment in which we intend to put them in,” he said.

“And it’s from that posture, if it’s possible at all, that a sensible leader of the Taliban would conclude that they can’t succeed by arms alone. We’ll see whether this individual makes that conclusion or not. Obviously, his predecessor didn’t draw that conclusion,” the Defence Secretary said in response to a question.

“The only thing I’d say about our plans in the future is this. Our plan in Afghanistan it is to reduce the overall foot print of US forces there, but we’re going to be there for a long time. And in the most important way, which is the support of the Afghan Security Forces,” Carter said.

“We have the funding, which we’re going to continue to give them, the Nato allies have indicated that they would continue to fund the Afghan Security Forces and that’s the most critical thing,” he said. “And then, of course, we’ll be in there for the purposes of supporting the Afghan security forces and also our counter—terrorism mission. That’s not going away next year,” Carter said.