Afghanistan: US urges Taliban to seek talks with Kabul government

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KABUL (TCA) — The U.S. Defense Department has hailed success on the battlefield by Afghanistan’s government forces and urged Taliban insurgents to embrace “peace and political legitimacy” through a negotiated settlement with the government in Kabul, RFE/RL reported.

The comments came in the Pentagon’s semiannual report to Congress, the first since President Donald Trump on August 21 announced his new strategy for Afghanistan and the South Asia region.

The Pentagon said in the report given to Congress on December 15 that U.S. and Afghan “sources indicate this fighting season has been more successful than the last.”

“During this reporting period [June 1, 2017, to November 30], the Taliban was unable to threaten any provincial centers, lost control of key districts, and the ANDSF retained control of all major population centers,” it said, referring to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.

U.S. commanders in Afghanistan had said in early summer that the conflict was in a “stalemate” as Afghan security forces struggled to hold back the Taliban and other extremist groups in the country.

The report said the major change in U.S. policy under Trump from “our previous strategy is the shift from a time-based approach to a conditions-based one.”

“This strategy is a clear signal of U.S. resolve and a break with the previous administration’s focus on a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan,” it added.

“Our purpose in Afghanistan remains the same,” the report said. It is “to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven from which terrorist groups can plan and execute attacks on the United States, or our allies, and citizens abroad.”

“The objective of the campaign is to convince the Taliban that they cannot win on the battlefield. The war will end in a comprehensive, Afghan-led political settlement that will include all parties, including the Taliban.”

“The Taliban cannot win on the battlefield. They must know that their only path to peace and political legitimacy is through a negotiated settlement with the Afghan government,” it said.

The United States has about 14,000 uniformed personnel in Afghanistan, an increase of some 3,000 from the previous reporting period, the report said.

Sergey Kwan

TCA