State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the "end goals" of the Afghanistan-Taliban peace process that included the Taliban's respect for the Afghan Constitution and the rights of women were not up for negotiation, leaving Associated Press reporter Matt Lee confused about her circular logic.
Representatives from the U.S. and the Taliban will engage in Afghanistan peace talks Thursday in an office that has opened in Qatar, which Psaki called a significant "first step" in the process.
Psaki repeatedly rebuffed Lee's questions about where in the Taliban's statement it said it would adhere to the Afghan Constitution and specifically respect for women and minorities, saying the U.S. considered that a vital part of the talks and not up for negotiation.
"But if it's not … I don't get it. If they haven't agreed to respect the Constitution, then it must mean that it's up for negotiation," Lee said:
PSAKI: It's not up for negotiation. That is the end goal of the process. The opening of the office is just a beginning of the process.
LEE: Ok, but they have to come to that conclusion.
LEE: Well, then I don't get why you're so happy. The Secretary said, ‘Good news, we're very pleased at what's taken place.' I'm not sure I get … If they haven't agreed to do the things you want them to do, except for this one statement with the two parts to it, but those are still the end goal of the process … It must mean that these are things up for negotiation.
PSAKI: They're not up for negotiation. Those were defined as the end goal of the process.
LEE: So you're hoping that the Afghans will convince the Taliban, their brethren, to respect the Constitution and the rights of minorities and women in their conversations, which means that that is up for negotiation.
PSAKI: It's not up for negotiation. That is the end goal of the process of reconciliation. This is a first step in the process. I'm not over-estimating or overstating what it means, but certainly a first step is one farther step than we had just a few days ago.