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‘Little clear progress’ in US-led Afghan peace efforts
November 21, 2018
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WASHINGTON: The US and Afghan governments have made “little clear progress” recently in compelling the Taliban to negotiate a peace deal, according to a new US assessment Monday that said military and political signs point toward continued stalemate.

“Progress toward peace remains elusive,” Glenn A. Fine, the acting Pentagon inspector general, wrote in an introduction to a comprehensive review of military, political and humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan during the July-September period.

These were the final three months of the 17th year of a war that began in October 2001.

The report offered little support for the Trump administration’s assertions that its revised war strategy, announced in August 2017, is bringing the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency closer to peace and reconciliation. When he visited Kabul in July, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the strategy “is indeed working.”

In the three months following Pompeo’s visit, the Taliban demonstrated their resilience even as the US military continued its focus on training and advising the Afghan army and police while helping develop an Afghan air force.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Saturday that efforts to draw the Taliban into peace talks are being made “below the surface.”  But he indicated that progress is insufficient. “We’re a long way from where we could say that we’re on the right path,” Dunford said at the Halifax International Security Forum, referring to effectively combining military, political and social pressure on the Taliban.

Noting that US officials as recently as a year ago called the war a stalemate, Dunford said, “it hasn’t changed much” since.

Pulling the Taliban into peace negotiations has been the central feature of the Trump administration’s Afghanistan strategy, with little result so far. The effort has intensified since Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Kabul, was appointed a special US envoy to Afghanistan in September. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that Khalilzad held three days of talks with the Taliban in Qatar.

Without referring explicitly to the talks in Qatar, Khalilzad told a news conference Sunday in Kabul, “I am talking to all interested parties, all Afghan groups... and I think there is an opportunity for reconciliation and peace.”

“The Afghan government wants peace,” he said.

Associated Press

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