Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Assaults by Taliban Raise Questions About US Plan for Peace
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 6 years ago on
August 15, 2018

Share

WASHINGTON — A year after the Trump administration introduced its strategy for Afghanistan, the Taliban are asserting themselves on the battlefield even as U.S. officials talk up hopes for peace. That’s raising questions about the viability of the American game plan for ending a war that began when some of the current U.S. troops were in diapers.
A Taliban assault on Ghazni, a key city linking areas of Taliban influence barely 75 miles from Kabul, has killed about 100 Afghan security forces and 20 civilians since Friday, the Afghan Defense Ministry said. That has demonstrated the militants’ ability to attack, if not hold, a strategic center on the nation’s main highway, and highlighted the vulnerability of Afghan security forces.
In a reminder that U.S. troops and their families are paying a heavy price, even with Afghan forces in the lead combat role, the Pentagon announced Monday that a 36-year-old soldier, Staff Sgt. Reymund Rarogal Transfiguracion of Waikoloa, Hawaii, died Sunday of wounds sustained on a combat patrol in the Helmand province.
Against that turbulent backdrop, some wonder whether President Donald Trump can resist pulling the plug on a war in which the U.S. is still spending $4 billion-plus a year just to keep Afghan forces afloat. He said when he introduced his strategy on Aug. 21, 2017, that his instinct was to withdraw entirely.

Fighting Has Intensified in Recent Weeks

Fighting across the country has intensified in recent weeks despite a fleeting outbreak of peace earlier in the summer. Taliban and the Afghan government called separate, briefly overlapping, national cease fires in June, and the administration has made its own contact with the Taliban in hopes of nudging them into talks with Kabul.
The strategy revisits an approach that was tried, and failed, under President Barack Obama: increasing military pressure to push the Taliban into peace negotiations with the Afghan government. Signs point to Trump pressing ahead; he is about to send a new Army general, Scott Miller, to take charge of the U.S.-led coalition in Kabul.
David Sedney, who has worked on Afghan issues as a civilian, including multiple years in Kabul and at the Pentagon, since the war began in October 2001, said he believes the chances for peace are the best they’ve been.
“That doesn’t mean they’re great,” he said in an interview. “It just means they’re better.”
Among the meaningful factors at play, Sedney says, is Trump’s announcement a year ago that the U.S. would no longer set time limits on its military support for Afghanistan. This introduced an element of uncertainty for the Taliban, he said. On the other hand, the current U.S. push to draw Taliban leaders into peace negotiations with Kabul must succeed soon, he said, or risk following the failed path of previous efforts.
Trump also gave the U.S. military more leeway to attack the Taliban, and a few thousand additional U.S. troops were sent to Afghanistan this year as part of an effort to improve the effectiveness of training and advising Afghan ground forces, while also developing a small Afghan air force. The battlefield results have been mixed, however, as the Taliban have managed to preserve their influence in numerous districts.

Photo of Afghan police officers searching a vehicle at a checkpoint on the Ghazni highway
Afghan police officers search a vehicle at a checkpoint on the Ghazni highway, in Maidan Shar, west of Kabul, Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Afghanistan Is Top Combat Priority

Early in 2018 the U.S. military declared Afghanistan to be its top combat priority, supplanting the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Key U.S. warplanes, including A-10 ground attack aircraft, were switched to Afghanistan, and the Pentagon introduced a newly formed outfit called a Security Force Assistance Brigade of U.S. soldiers assigned to help Afghan forces closer to the battlefield.
With Ghazni under threat, the U.S. has dispatched military advisers to assist the Afghan forces in retaking the besieged city, and has launched airstrikes.

“The Taliban is willing to talk a little bit about talks, but not to sit down and formally negotiate. I think they view time as in their favor and that the longer the war continues, the better their negotiating position.”Seth Jones, a longtime watcher of Afghanistan and director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
Seth Jones, a longtime watcher of Afghanistan and director of the Transnational Threats Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said it was unlikely the Taliban will be able to hold populated areas of Ghazni for long. The militants have lacked sufficient popular support and military power to hold population centers.
But the Taliban’s ability to mass forces in multiple areas of Afghanistan at virtually the same time_including in Ghazni, Faryab, Baghlan, and Kunduz provinces — should worry Afghan and U.S. officials. Tribal leaders and local officials had been repeatedly warning Afghan policymakers in Kabul that the Taliban was preparing for a broad offensive in Ghazni, Jones said.
He remains skeptical the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan will work as he sees no sign that Trump is willing to take what could be a game-changing move: to target the top Taliban leaders in their Pakistan sanctuaries.
“Much like Bush and Obama, the Trump administration has other areas of the world that it would rather focus on, whether it’s the Korean Peninsula or Iran or China more broadly, and to move on, if possible, from Afghanistan,” Jones said. “If a settlement is the way to do that, then they are willing to give that a shot. The challenge, though, is that it is still not clear to me that the Taliban is seriously interested in peace negotiations” in terms that would be acceptable to the U.S. and the Afghan governments, including making a formal, public break with al-Qaida.

Growing Regional Clout

The group has growing regional clout. The Taliban assault on Ghazni began as the head of its political office was wrapping up a rare diplomatic foray in neighboring Uzbekistan.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who helped persuade Trump last summer not to quit Afghanistan, says it’s too early to render judgment on whether peace talks will emerge anytime soon.
“No doubt the strategy has confronted the Taliban with a reason to go to cease fires … and to go into discussions” about potential negotiations, he said Aug. 7. “But it is still early in that reconciliation process.”

DON'T MISS

The Pickle Flavor Frenzy and Its Rise in Food Trends

DON'T MISS

Kate Hudson Had a Lifetime to Make a Record. The Result is ‘Glorious,’ Out in May

DON'T MISS

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

DON'T MISS

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

DON'T MISS

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

DON'T MISS

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

DON'T MISS

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

DON'T MISS

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

DON'T MISS

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have To Execute It’: FUSD Board President

DON'T MISS

Does Dyer Support (or Endorse) Bredefeld for Supervisor?

UP NEXT

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

UP NEXT

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

UP NEXT

Rare House Vote Sees Ukraine, Israel Aid Advance as Democrats Join Republicans

UP NEXT

Full Jury and 6 Alternates Seated in Trump’s Hush Money Trial

UP NEXT

Iran Fires at Suspected Israeli Drones Near Isfahan Air Base, Nuclear Facility

UP NEXT

US Vetoes Full United Nations Membership for Palestine

UP NEXT

Barbara Corcoran: 1% Interest Rate Drop Will Send Housing Prices ‘Through the Roof’

UP NEXT

US and UK Issue New Sanctions on Iran in Response to Tehran’s Weekend Attack on Israel

UP NEXT

Juror Dismissed From Trump Hush Money Trial. Prosecutors Seek to Hold Former President in Contempt

UP NEXT

Biden Backs House’s Aid Package for Ukraine, Israel While Speaker Johnson Battles to Retain Position

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

21 hours ago

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

1 day ago

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

1 day ago

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

1 day ago

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

1 day ago

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have To Execute It’: FUSD Board President

1 day ago

Does Dyer Support (or Endorse) Bredefeld for Supervisor?

1 day ago

Get a 3D First Look at Merced’s High-Speed Rail Station Design

2 days ago

California Court to Decide on Transgender Ballot Measure Wording

2 days ago

Rare House Vote Sees Ukraine, Israel Aid Advance as Democrats Join Republicans

2 days ago

The Pickle Flavor Frenzy and Its Rise in Food Trends

You might have noticed that the tangy taste of pickles has taken over more than just the condiment aisle. From pickle-flavored popcorn to pi...

20 hours ago

20 hours ago

The Pickle Flavor Frenzy and Its Rise in Food Trends

20 hours ago

Kate Hudson Had a Lifetime to Make a Record. The Result is ‘Glorious,’ Out in May

21 hours ago

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

21 hours ago

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

1 day ago

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

1 day ago

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

1 day ago

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

1 day ago

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend