Monday, August 20, 2018

The next COA in AFG; Talk?

Rod Nordland in the NYT has your Monday must-read article out on Afghanistan. He gives a great view of the state of play as we enter the ending weeks of the traditional fighting season.

Read it all, but this is the part that, as an old AFG hand, I find interesting;
American commanders have long since stopped talking about winning in Afghanistan. None see how 14,000 American troops can achieve what 110,000 could not.

Taliban leaders have always insisted that as long as any American troops remained in Afghanistan, they would negotiate peace only with the Americans. But American officials had insisted on an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process.”

Aides to President Trump, who once called the Afghanistan war a total disaster, have moved to authorize such talks. A State Department official met in July with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, according to Taliban officials.

In the past, Afghan officials have opposed that sort of American role, but apparently no longer. “As President Ghani has indicated that he’s ready to pursue something without conditions, that speaks for itself,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of the American military’s Central Command, when asked about American-initiated talks during a visit here on July 23. “Everything can be on the table here as we move forward with this Afghan-led process.”
Well, let's see what happens through the New Year.

Remember what we said back in January?
Fighting in Afghanistan has escalated with US and Afghan officials tipping 2018 to be a "game-changer" as relentless airstrikes pummel Islamist militant groups — but others warn the 16-year war has simply become a more violent stalemate.
The escalation of the conflict foreshadows a "particularly bloody year", Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center in Washington, DC told AFP, forecasting more Afghan and US casualties.
The escalation in fighting has all but dashed hopes for peace negotiations with the Taliban anytime soon.

Trump ruled out talks last month after the spate of attacks, an apparent reversal of the position set out in his Afghanistan strategy.

But Washington is still hoping to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said last week following a trip to Kabul.

Sullivan's comments come as the Afghan capital gears up for the Kabul Process meeting at the end of February, where the central government is under pressure to present a framework for peace talks.

But expectations for progress are low. "There's no way Kabul, or Washington for that matter, would agree to extend an olive branch to an outfit that is placing explosives in ambulances," Kugelman said.
Like I said, we'll see.

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