Newest U.S. strategy in Afghanistan mirrors past plans for retreat

Saul Bowman
July 31, 2018

The militant said the meeting was held in the small Middle Eastern country of Qatar, where the Taliban have maintained a political office since 2013.

Reports of Monday's landmark meeting in the Qatari capital appeared in American newspapers earlier this week but neither USA officials nor the Taliban directly commented on them until now.

The Taliban have long demanded direct talks with Washington.

It was the first ceasefire since the USA invaded Afghanistan to rout the Taliban after the 2001 9/11 attacks.

As recently as last week, USA officials were denying reports they were ready to speak directly to the Taliban.

They involved several members of the Taliban political commission and Alice Wells, the State Department's senior South Asia diplomat, as well as other unidentified us diplomats, according to the two Taliban officials.

USA officials neither confirmed nor denied a meeting took place.

Any talks about a future political setup would be between the Taleban and the Afghan government, the statement said. They added that there were "very positive signals" from the meeting, and that it was held in a "friendly atmosphere".

The Taleban argued that the Afghan government can not act independent of Washington. They also say that unless they can allay USA concerns about the group, an agreement with Kabul would be meaningless.

During the Taleban's five-year rule that ended with the 2001 US-led invasion, leader Mullah Mohammed Omar said regardless of whatever concessions they agreed to, including allowing girls to attend school, it would not gain them worldwide recognition as long as the United States refused to accept them.

Addressing delegates at the two-day anti-corruption conference of the Ulema Council, Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani acknowledged the Attorney General Office's efforts in fighting corruption and said when a minister is held accountable and when a three-star general goes to jail, it "indicates a good day for us and it is a sign of government's determination to fight the problem." .

The meeting in Doha came as the Afghan government is considering another unilateral ceasefire with the insurgents during the upcoming Eid festival in August to encourage the Taliban to come to the table for peace talks.

At least two Taliban militants were killed after an Afghan special force-related airstrike targeted a running vehicle in eastern Logar province Friday night, the command of special forces said Saturday.

In a report published on Sunday, The New York Times, citing three unnamed United States officials, said the plan was outlined in a previously undisclosed part of the war strategy that President Donald Trump announced a year ago.

After the declared end of combat operations in 2014, most American troops withdrew to major population areas in the country, leaving Afghan forces to defend remote outposts.

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