Taliban not losing in Afghanistan: US military officer

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Washington, Nov 18 (IANS) A top US military officer said that the Taliban "are not losing" in Afghanistan, and much more needs to be done to bring peace to the war-torn country.

"They are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say," CNN quoted Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as saying during a discussion at a security forum in Canada on Saturday.

"We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much."

Dunford said that while there would never be a "military solution" on its own to bring peace to Afghanistan, the US and its NATO partners were working to leverage military, political and economic pressure to convince the Taliban it was in their interest to negotiate a political solution to the crisis with the government in Kabul.

"Without going into detail here, we do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile," he said.

"The key to success is to combine all that pressure to incentivise the Taliban" to negotiate.

As part of the administration’s strategy to bring about a political resolution to the 17-year war, President Donald Trump announced an increase in US troops last year that brought the total number in the country to about 14,000.

Former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad was recently named the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation and has travelled repeatedly to the region for discussions with national governments and the Taliban to try to jump-start a dialogue.

But progress toward ending the decades-long conflict has proven elusive, CNN said.

Earlier this month, the US government’s ombudsman for the American effort in Afghanistan issued a report that said the Taliban have strengthened their grip on the country over the past three years, with the Afghan government in Kabul controlling only about 56 per cent of the country — down from 72 per cent in 2015.

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