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Will force Taliban into reconciliation: US official

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AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL:  The US is adopting a multi-pronged strategy to force the Taliban into reconciliation, CENTCOM Commander Gen. Joseph Votel said on Tuesday.

Reforms promised by President Ashraf Ghani constitute a key part of the strategy, which includes military and political pressures, as well as force applied through regional partners like Pakistan.

Votel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee during a Congressional hearing:  “I think the key strategy; the big idea here is to force the Taliban to reconciliation.

“The way we do that is by focusing on military pressure, by focusing on political pressure working with the regional partners such as Pakistan, and it’s through social pressure,” Votel said in response to a question.

This also includes ensuring the Afghan government continues to implement the necessary reforms that Ghani has already committed to and that he is moving on.

“This includes not only addressing endemic problems with corruption, but also ensuring that fair elections are conducted in the country, and that they are addressing some of the leadership challenges they have,” he said.

It would help build confidence in the government of Afghanistan for the people, Votel believed, describing Taliban as a narco-terror group, which took on the characteristics of a mob-mafia type outfit.

“This is not a popular insurgency. I think that’s an important thing for people to understand. Over 90 percent of the people in Afghanistan do not want the Taliban to be in charge of their country. It’s not a popular insurgency,” he said.

Senator Joni Earnest said the Taliban seemed to be transitioning from an ideologically-inspired group into a narco-terror outfit using ideology as a veil.

According to Senator Reed, the Trump administration has yet to articulate the political governance or economic aspects of the strategy, much less the associated staffing and resources required to implement it.

Votel said one of his top priories was to implement the South Asia strategy in Afghanistan, reaffirming its enduring commitment to Afghanistan by reinforcing the two complementary military missions: the NATO-led train, advise and assist mission and the U.S. counterterrorism mission.

“With our support, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are well-postured to begin operations to seize the initiative to expand population control and secure credible elections,” he said.

“Part and parcel of this effort is our regionalized approach to engage all countries with a stake in Afghanistan’s stability, especially Pakistan, where we seek a more productive and trustful relationship that benefits our mutual objectives in the region,” Votel said.