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US 'invested in a failed strategy' in Afghanistan

As US vows to fight the Taliban, experts and former diplomats say the US-led forces caught in a protracted conflict.

by Shereena Qazi

US President Donald Trump's decision to reject talks with the Taliban will only trigger more attacks and will only aggravate the war, a former Taliban member has said.

Following a string of deadly assaults in the capital, Kabul, this month, Trump on Monday announced that Washington was not going to hold talks with the Taliban, which has been leading an armed rebellion since it was overthrown from power by US-led forces in 2001.

Responding to Trump's decision, the Taliban said war would "increase the human and financial losses of American troops".

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, said that there would be no solution to the war in the country if there are no talks with the Taliban.

"US decision to put pressure on the Taliban by fighting them will only result in more bloodshed. This matter needs to be resolved through proper dialogue," Zaeef told Al Jazeera.

"We know that the Taliban will be fighting as they have been for the past decades, so what is important now is to listen more, talk more.

"Let this country decide for itself according to its own culture and religion. The US... will face failure if they decide to stay and fight more."

Trump has committed an additional 3,000 US troops to Afghanistan in recent weeks, bringing the total number of American troops in Afghanistan to about 14,000.

Hiding the truth

On Monday, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR, said the Pentagon had restricted the release of information on the areas that are under the Taliban and the Afghan government.

John Sopko, who leads the independent watchdog, wrote in SIGAR's latest quarterly report that the request to classify more information was "troubling".

"The implication is that I think the average American who reads our reports or reads your press accounts of it, has no meaningful ability to analyse how his money or her money is being spent on Afghanistan," Sopko told Reuters news agency in an interview.

The BBC news network published a report on Tuesday showing that the Taliban are active in 70 percent of Afghanistan's districts, fully controlling four percent of the country and demonstrating an open physical presence in another 66 percent.

"Presumably the Taliban knows the territory that it has won, and the government knows the territory that it has lost," Peter Galbraith, a former United Nations' Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera.

"The only reason to suppress this information in the SIGAR report is to hide the truth from the American people."

The US military later defended the decision, saying a "human error in labeling" caused it to classify the report.

'US' failed strategy'

Former officials say the Afghan government and its ally, the US, are not capable of defeating the Taliban, and that in the case of Afghanistan, if victory is defined as one side defeating the other, it would only result in failure.

"The first step towards a solution is to recognise that the strategy pursued so far hasn't worked. The US and its NATO allies are reluctant to recognise the truth in part because they have invested so much in a failed strategy. So, rather than admit error, the best they can do is propose more of what hasn't worked," Galbraith said.

Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the UN, however, said on January 17 that the Trump administration's Afghanistan strategy was working.

Three days later, on January 20, Taliban orchestrated a bloody siege at Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel that left at least 20 dead, including four Americans. A week later, more than 100 people were killed in a suicide attack in the heart of the capital, Kabul.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for both attacks, saying they were a message to the US that their strategy had failed and that the attacks will continue until they [US-led forces] leave the country.

"The Taliban don't want to talk until they prove that they've defeated the US. And when they do, they will want to talk under their terms and conditions and would only be interested in how they are accommodated," Marvin G Weinbaum, who served as analyst for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the US Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, told Al Jazeera.

"The Taliban have a different vision of what Afghanistan should be, which is the Islamic emirate which has a very different set of rules and objectives."

While the Taliban and Trump refuse to engage in talks, the armed group's five-member Qatar-based delegation travelled to Islamabad, Pakistan, this month where representatives from other nations, including China, discussed a possible solution to the Afghan war. The US did not participate in the Islamabad talks.

"We submitted a report to our top leadership after the meeting in Islamabad. All the sides listened to each other on how to put an end to the war," a Taliban official told Al Jazeera, confirming the trip to Pakistan.

As part of the Trump administration's aggressive agenda to defeat the Taliban, Washington announced plans this month to suspend nearly $2bn in US security assistance to Pakistan.

The US and the Afghan government have asked Pakistan to stop providing safe havens for Taliban fighters and its affiliate Haqqani Network, a charge Islamabad denies.

Thousands of Afghan civilians have died in the civil war since 2001, when the Americans invaded Afghanistan to topple the Taliban.

"The more they (US) insist on staying in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban, the more innocent people will die. This is recurring mistake, and something should be learned from it," Zaeef told Al Jazeera.


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SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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