The United States this year admitted Afghanistan’s troops would not see a military victory against the Taliban, stressing that the primary goal of American President Donald Trump’s strategy to end the more than 17-year-old war is to achieve a “political reconciliation” between the jihadi group and Kabul.
In March, outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis described victory in Afghanistan as facilitating the reconciliation between the Taliban and the Afghan government rather than defeating the jihadists on the battlefield.
“We do look toward a victory in Afghanistan,” the Pentagon chief declared, adding, “Not a military victory — the victory will be a political reconciliation” with the Taliban, which has achieved a stalemate with U.S.-backed Afghan forces in recent years.
In December, Gen. Scott Miller, the top commander of American and NATO troops in Afghanistan, told CNN, ”This fight will go until a political settlement. These are two sides that are fighting against one another, and neither one of them will achieve a military victory at this stage.”
His comments came in response to the news network asking whether the Afghan campaign against the Taliban had reached a stalemate.
U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass reportedly concurred with the top general’s assessment, warning during the same interview that American and Afghan officials will face a complicated diplomatic situation given the Taliban’s continued rejection of the Afghan government as a puppet of the United States.
American troops invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 in response to the Taliban harboring al-Qaeda before it carried out the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. homeland.
Since they took responsibility of Afghanistan’s security after the U.S. and NATO declared their combat mission over at the end of 2014, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which includes police and military units, has suffered the vast majority of casualties.
Terrorists, mainly the Taliban, have killed nearly 29,000 ANDSF fighters since 2015, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed this month.
During his confirmation hearing for the top American commander in the Middle East and Afghanistan post on December 4, Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr, told lawmakers that the ANDSF would essentially collapse in the event of an American military withdrawal.
“Their losses have been very high,” he told lawmakers at the time. “They’re fighting hard but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem.”
Although the United States has devoted the majority (about $83 billion) of the $132 billion in reconstruction funding to developing the Afghan forces, they continue to suffer from capability lapses. Nevertheless, the Trump administration has intensified its peace-seeking efforts in recent months, meeting with the Taliban on several occasions to convince the terrorist group to reconcile with the Afghan government.
The Trump administration has made “political reconciliation” the primary tenet of its strategy to end the war.
This year, U.S. officials came out in support of Afghan President Ghani’s offer to the Taliban of a ceasefire and official recognition as a legitimate political group, effectively conceding that a military victory against the terrorist group is impossible at this juncture.
The Taliban has repeatedly refused to engage in negotiations with Kabul, arguing that it is a puppet of the United States.
“We have an opportunity today that we didn’t have six or 12 months ago to see if it’s truly possible to achieve that political settlement,” Amb. Bass told CNN. “We don’t know if we’re going to be successful. We have to see if the Taliban is interested in responding to the deep desire of the Afghanistan people for peace.”
The influence and manpower of the Afghan Taliban jihadis have reached unprecedented proportions in recent years.
According to the U.S Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) an American watchdog agency, terrorists in Afghanistan, primarily the Taliban, control or contest 45 percent of the country.
Several news outlets reported that the Trump administration is considering a plan to withdraw half of the 14,000 U.S. troops deployed to Afghanistan. However, the White House said President Trump had not ordered the Pentagon to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has repeatedly reported that the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is home to the highest concentration of terrorist groups in the world, including the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and the Haqqani Network, among others.