ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – A spike in assaults by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan has been “notably unhelpful” to peace efforts there, a senior U.S. army commander cautioned on Saturday as he visited neighboring Pakistan, the place many Taliban militants are based mostly.
FILE PHOTO: Indignant Afghan protesters burn tires and shout slogans on the web site of a blast in Kabul, Afghanistan September three, 2019. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani/File Photograph
U.S. Marine Basic Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees American troops within the area, declined to touch upon the diplomatic negotiations themselves.
However the remarks symbolize the most recent signal of how a wave of Taliban violence has solid a protracted shadow over a draft peace deal struck between U.S. and Taliban negotiators this week that would result in a drawdown in U.S. troops from America’s longest struggle.
“It’s notably unhelpful at this second in Afghanistan’s historical past for the Taliban to ramp up violence,” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, advised reporters touring with him.
Taliban fighters, who now management extra territory than at any time since 2001, launched contemporary assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri over the previous week and carried out two main suicide bombings within the capital Kabul.
One of many blasts took the lifetime of U.S. Military Sergeant 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Puerto Rico, bringing the variety of American troops killed in Afghanistan this yr to 16.
McKenzie mentioned that, for the peace course of to maneuver ahead, “all events needs to be dedicated to an eventual political settlement” which, in flip, ought to end in decreased violence, he added.
“If we are able to’t get that getting into, then it’s tough to see the events are going to have the ability to perform the phrases of the settlement, no matter they may or won’t be,” McKenzie mentioned.
Beneath the draft accord, hundreds of U.S. troops could be withdrawn over the approaching months in change for ensures that Afghanistan wouldn’t be used as a base for militant assaults on the US and its allies.
Nevertheless, a full peace settlement to finish greater than 18 years of struggle would rely upon subsequent “intra Afghan” talks. The Taliban have rejected requires a ceasefire and as a substitute stepped up operations throughout the nation.
NEW CIVIL WAR?
For Afghans, the Taliban’s latest escalation of assaults has underscored fears that it might be inconceivable to succeed in a steady settlement following any full U.S. withdrawal.
Many have apprehensive a few fracture alongside ethnic and regional traces, with Persian-speaking Tajiks and Hazaras from the north and west towards southern and japanese Pashtuns, the group which have provided most of Afghanistan’s rulers and the place the Taliban draw most assist. Recollections of the 1990s civil struggle are vivid.
Some Taliban are based mostly in neighboring Pakistan, the place McKenzie held talks on Saturday with a prime Pakistani normal. Extra talks are scheduled for Sunday.
McKenzie mentioned he didn’t know whether or not any of the planning for the latest wave of assaults in Afghanistan got here from Pakistan-based militants.
However McKenzie counseled Pakistan for supporting the peace efforts in Afghanistan, within the newest signal of an enchancment in long-fraught relations between Washington and Islamabad.
“Numerous Pakistanis have been killed by militant assaults inside Pakistan. I feel Pakistan sees the advantages of a steady Afghanistan,” McKenzie mentioned.
“So I feel they’re dedicated to serving to us get to a political answer in Afghanistan.”
For years, the US accused Pakistan of failing to do sufficient to fight militants based mostly on its territory. Pakistan denies accusations that it helps the Taliban however many members dwell there.
McKenzie acknowledged there have been militant protected havens in Pakistan however mentioned: “I consider Pakistan operates towards these protected havens.”
“I consider that work is incomplete however it’s persevering with,” he added.
Reporting by Phil Stewart; Modifying by Marguerita Choy