Is Afghanistan a Lost Cause


We are there and we are committed” was the regular retort of Secretary of State Dean Rusk during the war in Vietnam.

Whatever you may think of our decision to go in, Rusk was saying, if we walk away, the United States loses the first war in its history, with all that means for Southeast Asia and America’s position in the world.

We face a similar moment of decision.

Wednesday, a truck bomb exploded near the diplomatic quarter of Kabul, killing 90 and wounding 460. So terrible was the atrocity that the Taliban denied complicity. It is believed to have been the work of the Haqqani network.

This “horrific and shameful attack demonstrates these terrorists’ compete disregard for human life and their nihilistic opposition to the dream of a peaceful future for Afghanistan,” said Hugo Llordens, a U.S. diplomat in Kabul.

The message the truck bombers sent to the Afghan people? Not even in the heart of this capital can your government keep civilian workers and its own employees safe.

Message to America: After investing hundreds of billions and 2,000 U.S. lives in the 15 years since 9/11, we are further from victory than we have ever been.

President Obama, believing Afghanistan was the right war, and Iraq the wrong war, ramped up the U.S. presence in 2011 to 100,000 troops. His plan: Cripple the Taliban, train the Afghan army and security forces, stabilize the government, and withdraw American forces by the end of his second term.

Obama fell short, leaving President Trump with 8,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, and Kabul’s control more tenuous than ever. The Taliban hold more territory and are active in more provinces than they have been since being driven from power in 2001. And Afghan forces are suffering casualties at the highest rate of the war.

Stated starkly, the war in Afghanistan is slowly being lost.

Have something to say about this column?
Visit Pat’s FaceBook page and post your comments….

Indeed, Trump has inherited what seems to be an unwinnable war, if he is not prepared to send a new U.S. army to block the Taliban from taking power. And it is hard to believe that the American people would approve of any large reintroduction of U.S. forces.

The U.S. commander there, Gen. John Nicholson, has requested at least 3,000 more U.S. troops to train the Afghan army and stabilize the country while seeking a negotiated end to the war.

Trump’s conundrum: 3,000 or 5,000 more U.S. troops can at best help the Afghan security forces sustain the present stalemate.

But if we could not defeat the Taliban with 100,000 U.S. troops in country in 2011, we are not going to defeat a stronger Taliban with a U.S. force one-seventh of that size. And if a guerrilla army does not lose, it wins.

Yet it is hard to see how Trump can refuse to send more troops. If he says we have invested enough blood and treasure, the handwriting will be on the wall. Reports that both Russia and Iran are already talking to the Taliban suggest that they see a Taliban takeover as inevitable.

http://buchanan.org/blog/afghanistan-lost-cause-127140

Sartaj Aziz admits Pakistan housing Afghan Taliban leadership


sartaj-aziz-admits-pakistan-housing-afghan-taliban-leadership-1457054676-6705

Prime Minister’s senior aide Sartaj Aziz has said for the first time publicly that the Afghan Taliban’s leadership enjoys a safe haven inside Pakistan, which Islamabad uses as a “lever” to pressure the group into talks with Kabul.

 

The admission by Sartaj Aziz comes after years of official denials by Islamabad that it offers shelter or exerts any influence over the Taliban, whose 14-year-insurgency against Afghan and NATO forces has claimed tens of thousands of civilian and military lives.

 

Speaking at the Council on Foreign Affairs in Washington on Tuesday, he said: “We have some influence on them because their leadership is in Pakistan and they get some medical facilities, their families are here.”

 

“So we can use those levers to pressurise them to say: ‘Come to the table’,” he added, according to a transcript on the think tank’s website.

 

The remarks confirm what has become an open secret in diplomatic circles, particularly since Pakistan began brokering direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban last summer. The negotiations faltered after Afghan intelligence leaked the news the group’s founder Mullah Omar had died in 2013.

 

The Taliban later confirmed they lied about Omar’s death for two years, sowing divisions among the militants and anger at his successor Mullah Akhtar Mansour for leading the cover-up.

 

Most of the group’s leaders are believed to be residing in the southwestern city of Quetta with others in northwest Peshawar and southern Karachi. Pakistan, Afghanistan, the United States and China held their fourth round of talks aimed at reviving direct peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban late last month.

 

The four-country group invited Taliban representatives to return to negotiations by the first week of March, though a spokesperson for the militants later said they had not yet received an invitation.

 

Aziz said Islamabad had used the threat of expulsion to force the Taliban into the first round of talks.

 

“We already — before the July 7th meeting last year — we had to use some of these levers and restricted their movements, restricted their access to hospital and other facilities, and threatened them that if you do not come forward and talk, then obviously we will at least expel you,” he said.

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/national/04-Mar-2016/sartaj-aziz-admits-pakistan-housing-afghan-taliban-leadership

Afghan Taliban Refuse Peace Talks With Government


The Taliban said Saturday they will not participate in a peace process with the Afghan government until foreign forces stop attacking their positions and leave the country.

A statement emailed to The Associated Press by spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the insurgents “reject” peace talks and that reports of their participation were “rumors.”

Face-to-face talks were expected to take place in Pakistan in early March, but Afghan officials said in recent days that they have been postponed for at least a week. Senior government officials had characterized the meeting as the first real step in a peace process aimed at ending the war, now in its 15th year.

Javid Faisal, a spokesman for Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said the government “has no problem holding the first round of direct peace talks.”

The Taliban have meanwhile accused the United States of boosting troop numbers and carrying out airstrikes and night raids on residential compounds. They also accuse Afghan forces of stepping up operations.

Mujahid said the leader of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, had not given any order to take part in talks and that the “leadership council of the Islamic Emirate” had not discussed the matter.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/afghan-taliban-participate-talks-37420479

Taliban Militants Cast Doubt on Peace Talks With Afghan Government


6CD235C8-0B90-4AAA-A18E-1C4FDB812B47_w640_r1_s

Afghanistan’s Taliban militants are casting further doubt on prospects for peace talks with the Kabul government.

In a Pashto language statement given Saturday to VOA, the Taliban said their leadership had not yet decided to engage in talks with Kabul. They said they believed talks could not be productive until all foreign forces had left Afghanistan, sanctions on insurgent leaders had been removed and Taliban prisoners had been freed.

The statement said U.S. night raids in Afghanistan were continuing. It added that fresh American forces had been deployed to the battlefield and that Afghan forces had also intensified their operations. The Taliban said that in the light of those developments, peace talks would be meaningless.

http://www.voanews.com/content/taliban-casts-doubt-on-peace-talks/3220977.html