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Top US military officer has meeting with Taliban peace negotiator

Milley’s conferences got here amid a brand new drawdown of U.S. troops, though beneath present U.S. coverage a whole pullout hinges on the Taliban lowering assaults nationwide.

KABUL, Afghanistan — The highest U.S. basic held unannounced talks with Taliban peace negotiators within the Persian Gulf to induce a discount in violence throughout Afghanistan, at the same time as senior American officers in Kabul warned that stepped-up Taliban assaults endanger the militant group’s nascent peace negotiations with the Afghan authorities.

Military Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Workers, met for about two hours with Taliban negotiators in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday and flew Wednesday to Kabul to debate the peace course of with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Milley’s conferences got here amid a brand new drawdown of U.S. troops, though beneath present U.S. coverage a whole pullout hinges on the Taliban lowering assaults nationwide.

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“An important a part of the discussions that I had with each the Taliban and the federal government of Afghanistan was the necessity for a direct discount in violence,” Milley instructed three reporters, together with one from The Related Press, who accompanied him to Qatar and Afghanistan. “The whole lot else hinges on that.”

Beneath floor guidelines set by Milley for safety causes, the journalists touring with him agreed to not report on both set of talks till he had departed the area. It was Milley’s second unannounced assembly with the Taliban’s negotiating staff; the primary, in June, additionally in Doha, had not been reported till now.

Though Milley reported no breakthrough, his Taliban conferences characterize a outstanding milestone — America’s prime basic coming face-to-face with representatives of the group that dominated Afghanistan till it was ousted 19 years in the past this month within the early phases of what grew to become America’s longest struggle. Milley served three excursions of responsibility in Afghanistan, the primary in 2003 and the final in 2013-14.

Military Gen. Scott Miller, the highest commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, stated in an interview at his army headquarters in Kabul on Wednesday that the Taliban have stepped up assaults on Afghan forces, significantly within the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, and in opposition to roadways and different infrastructure.

“My evaluation is, it places the peace course of in danger — the upper the violence, the upper the danger,” Miller stated. Miller meets at the least as soon as a month with Taliban negotiators as a part of Washington’s effort to advance a peace course of.

Talking in the identical interview, Ross Wilson, the rating American diplomat in Kabul, stated he additionally sees rising threat from Taliban violence. He stated it has created “an insufferable burden” on the Afghan armed forces and the society as an entire.

Within the so-called Doha settlement signed final February by the US and the Taliban, the administration of President Donald Trump agreed to a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops, taking place to zero troops by Might 2021 if the settlement’s circumstances are upheld. One situation is a discount in violence by the Taliban, resulting in a nationwide ceasefire. The Taliban additionally agreed to start peace negotiations with the Afghan authorities, that are in an early stage.

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The Taliban have demanded a halt to U.S. airstrikes, which have been performed since February solely in assist of Afghan forces beneath Taliban assault.

Miller stated he was saddened by what he known as the Taliban’s deliberate marketing campaign to wreck roadways, bridges and different infrastructure as a part of the militants’ effort to restrict the Afghan authorities’s capacity to strengthen its troops.

“Navy commanders on the bottom are actually beginning to do issues that aren’t conducive to peace talks and reconstruction and stability,” Miller stated, including, “Clearly, the Taliban use violence as leverage” in opposition to the Afghan authorities.

Miller stated he’s executing Trump’s order to scale back U.S. forces from 4,500 to 2,500 by Jan. 15, simply days earlier than Joe Biden is sworn in as Trump’s successor. Miller stated troop ranges are actually at about 4,000 and can attain the two,500 goal on time.

Biden has not stated publicly whether or not he’ll proceed the drawdown or how he’ll proceed with the Doha settlement negotiated by Trump’s peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad.

Biden has not laid out an in depth plan for Afghanistan however has made clear he prefers a small U.S. army footprint and restricted targets. He has acknowledged that he dissented from then-President Barack Obama’s choice in December 2009 to vastly improve troop ranges in hope of forcing the Taliban to the peace desk.

“I feel we must always solely have troops there to make it possible for it’s unimaginable for… ISIS or al-Qaida to re-establish a foothold there,” Biden instructed CBS Information in February.

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Trump has argued for withdrawing completely from Afghanistan however was persuaded in November to scale back the power to 2,500 and proceed the present missions of counterterrorism and coaching and advising Afghan forces.

Some imagine that the additional thinning of U.S. forces in coming weeks might result in renewed Taliban positive aspects on the battlefield and a weakening of the Afghan authorities’s place on the peace desk.

Steven Biddle, a protection coverage knowledgeable with the Council on Overseas Relations and professor of worldwide relations at Columbia College, says the principle contribution of U.S. forces at this stage is political moderately than army.

“In army phrases, the struggle is a slowly decaying stalemate,” Biddle stated in congressional testimony final month. “The U.S. presence can gradual the speed of decay on the margin, however we can’t reverse it absent a serious reinforcement that appears extremely unlikely. Which means if the struggle continues, the Taliban will finally prevail no matter believable variations within the measurement or nature of the U.S. troop dedication.”

Milley’s go to comes within the 20th yr of a struggle initially aimed toward overthrowing the Taliban regime, operating al-Qaida in a foreign country and laying the groundwork for a worldwide “struggle on terrorism.” It become one thing extra formidable but much less well-defined and have become much more expensive in blood and treasure.

Wanting again on the long-stalemated struggle, Milley earlier this month proclaimed the U.S. and its coalition companions had achieved “a modicum of success.”

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