The U.S. is offering Taliban narco-jihadists — the killers behind most American military fatalities during the ongoing Afghan war — safety and job opportunities as part of a peace deal, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported on Thursday, citing a Pentagon plan.
Dawn quotes the Pentagon’s plan sent to Congress this week as saying, “Although some members of the Taliban may be weary of fighting and ready to lay down their weapons, they will only rejoin society if they believe their safety and the safety of their families are guaranteed, and if they have an opportunity to earn enough money to provide for their families.”
The Taliban has reportedly indicated it is willing to allow a residual U.S. military presence to remain in Afghanistan to train local forces, including prospective ex-Taliban jihadis, to take on the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) and other terrorist groups.
Despite millions in American taxpayer funds devoted to a similar initiative — the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) — the program closed its doors in 2016 due to a lack of progress in keeping so-called reintegrated terrorists away from jihadi activities.
Between the program’s creation in 2010 and 2014, over 9,000 Taliban terrorists were reportedly reintegrated into Afghan society at the cost of about $35,000 each, with the United States bearing most of the burden.
In 2017, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency, reported that the Trump administration was preparing to launch a successor to the APRP.
“According to [the] State [Department], the APRP is expected to shift from the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration focus of the APRP to negotiating political settlements with armed opposition groups, forging national and international consensus on a peace process, and promoting and institutionalizing a culture of peace,” SIGAR explained.
Consistent with ongoing campaigns from China, Pakistan, Russia, and other world powers, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has intensified efforts in recent months to convince the Taliban to make peace with Kabul. The Trump administration has come out in full support of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s offer to the jihadi group of a ceasefire and official recognition as a legitimate political power, which could lead to the terrorist group governing Afghanistan again as they were before U.S. troops overthrew the Taliban regime at the end of 2001.
Citing the Pentagon, Dawn reports that Kabul has failed to develop “a national reintegration program.”
“While the Trump administration appears keen to start withdrawing US forces from Afghanistan, the Pentagon advocates maintaining enough troops in Afghanistan to force the Taliban to join peace talks” the newspaper notes, adding:
The Pentagon also supports the peace process initiated by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation (SRAR), Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who has already held a series of meetings with Taliban in Qatar and the UAE and regularly visits Afghanistan and its neighboring states, like Pakistan and India. Increased military pressure on the Taliban, international calls for peace, and the new SRAR’s engagements appear to be driving the Taliban to negotiations, says the Pentagon report.
Last week, news reports surfaced claiming Trump is considering plans to reduce America’s military presence in Afghanistan by half to 7,000. However, Gen. Joseph Dunford, the highest-ranking military official in the United States as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dismissed the reports as “rumors.”
“There’s all kinds of rumors swirling around,” Dunford told U.S. forces, Stars and Stripes reports. “The mission you have today is the same as the mission you had yesterday.”
A day after Dunford’s comments, Army Gen. Scott Miller, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, also stated that he had received “no orders” to withdraw American forces from the country yet.
Opium cultivation and its heroin derivative are the top sources of funding for the Taliban. Although the vast majority of opioid-linked drugs enter the U.S. from Latin America, a small amount of Afghan heroin makes onto American soil and is fueling, if only slightly, the drug overdose epidemic that kills tens of thousands each year. It remains uncertain what role the Taliban’s heavy involvement in opium cultivation and heroin trafficking is playing in ongoing peace talks led by the U.S.