General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Saturday that the Taliban “are not losing” in Afghanistan and that much more needs to be done to bring peace to the war-torn nation, according to CNN.
“They are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say,” General Dunford said of the Taliban during a discussion at a security forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much.”
Dunford said that it has long been known that a “military solution” was not a realistic goal for the stalemate in Afghanistan, but that a coordinated military, political, and economic pressure campaign would be required to convince the Taliban that it is in their best interest to negotiate a political solution regarding the government of Afghanistan.
“Without going into detail here, we do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile,” General Dunford said.
“The key to success is to combine all that pressure to incentivize the Taliban.”
General Dunford said that the recent elections in Afghanistan were “largely successful,” and believes that next year’s presidential elections hold tremendous importance, but said, “I think we are a long way” from reaching any reconciliation with the Taliban.
With the war in Afghanistan dragging into its 17th year, military and political pressure have been difficult to generate. President Trump increased the number of troops in Afghanistan to 14,000 last year, while Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has made numerous trips to the region for discussions with the Taliban and other national leaders in an attempt to bring about a political reconciliation. Yet progress toward that goal remains elusive.
Earlier this month, a report issued by the U.S. government’s ombudsman for the American effort in Afghanistan said that the Taliban has made steady progress is strengthening their control over the region, noting that they have increased their control to over 44 percent of Afghanistan, up from 28 percent in 2015. Furthermore, Afghan security forces who took over from the United States in 2014 continue to suffer heavy casualties in their civil conflict with the Taliban.
Last month, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that Afghan security forces had sustained over a thousand casualties while trying to protect the nation’s October elections.
“They stayed in the field fighting, and the Taliban has been prevented from what they said they were going to do, which was to take and hold districts and provincial centers, and also disrupt an election that they were unable to disrupt,” Mattis said.