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Afghanistan current affairs, news, discussion and update

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Taliban plans spring offensive to 'eradicate' Afghan occupation
ByNicholas Sakelaris

April 12 (UPI) -- Amid ongoing peace talks, the Taliban said Friday it's planning a spring offensive to fight U.S. and Afghan forces in the war-torn nation.

The insurgent group announced Operation Fath, which means "victory" in Arabic, with the aim of "eradicating occupation" and "cleansing our Muslim homeland from invasion and corruption." The group opposes the continued presence of U.S. forces that have been in the country since late 2001.

"Our Jihadi obligation has not yet ended," the Taliban said.

Last month, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced his own spring offensive, titled Operation Khalid. The Taliban said Friday its new plans are a response to Ghani's operation. Afghan defense minister Qais Mangal called the Taliban's threat "mere propaganda."

The fighting has intensified throughout Afghanistan as the weather gets warmer. Monday, three U.S. Marines were killed by a roadside bomb near Bagram air base. Eight Afghan police officers also died Monday in a Taliban attack in Balkh province.

U.S. and Taliban officials have been meeting in recent weeks to negotiate a withdrawal of American forces -- talks that have upset the Afghan government because it's not been part of the discussions. President Donald Trump in December mentioned a possible withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The Taliban said it plans to meet soon with an Afghan delegation at a peace conference. The government has lifted travel restrictions for some Taliban officials for the meeting.

Taliban plans spring offensive to 'eradicate' Afghan occupation
 

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Afghan peace conference canceled over Taliban concerns
By
Clyde Hughes


Taliban militants greet Afghan security forces in June 2018 as a group of militants visited the government-controlled areas as a goodwill gesture for peace. File Photo by Jalil Rezayee/EPA-EFE


April 19 (UPI) -- A weekend peace conference in Qatar seeking a first-of-its kind agreement between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban has been abruptly canceled over concerns about who would be at the meeting.

For months, Taliban, Afghan and U.S. officials have been in discussions to bring an end to the 17-year presence of American forces in the Mideast nation. Tensions between the Kabul government and the Taliban, however, have slowed the process. U.S. officials hoped the two-day conference this weekend would jump start direct negotiations between the two sides. It was reported the Taliban balked at the nearly 200 people the Afghan government wanted to bring.

"This unfortunate postponement is necessary to further build consensus as to who should participate in the conference," said Doha Institute Director Sultan Barakat, whose organization was set to host the summit.

The Afghan government said its delegation represents a cross-section of society and urged Qatar officials not to alter it, but the Taliban opposed the list.

"The creators of the Kabul list must realize that this is an orderly and prearranged conference in a faraway Gulf country and not an invitation to some wedding or other party at a hotel in Kabul," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said despite the cancellation, the government would continue to reach out to the Taliban in an effort to reach a deal.

Zalmy Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, tweeted that while he's disappointed, peace efforts must go on.

"We're in touch with all parties and encouraged that everyone remains committed to dialogue," he said.

"Dialogue is and always will be key to a political roadmap and lasting peace. There is no alternative."

An agreement was nearly brokered last month, which would have removed U.S. troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban agreeing not to harbor terrorists.

Afghan peace conference canceled over Taliban concerns
 

BATMAN

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Pakistan should stay out of this web of conspiracies.
 

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Washington’s Gamble in Afghanistan
April 22, 2019

The U.S. decision to pursue talks with the Taliban is rife with risk, but it’s the right decision.
by Michael Kugelman

There’s a famous saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

By that measure, Washington has tested the limits of sanity with its strategy in Afghanistan: For seventeen years, it pursued the same policy while hoping in vain that it would produce the desired outcome.

Recent months, however, have brought a much-needed course correction. The new policy is rife with risk, but it’s the right policy—because it’s the only viable option Washington has left, the timing and conditions are right for it, and most importantly it puts America in a stronger position for an eventual but inevitable withdrawal from Afghanistan.

From Fight Now, Talk Later to Talk Right Now

For nearly two decades, U.S. troops tried to wear the Taliban down on the battlefield, hoping that such relentless pressure would convince the insurgents to agree to negotiate an end to America’s longest-ever war.

That goal motivated the American troop surge a decade ago. More recently, it was reflected in the Trump administration’s Afghanistan strategy, which was announced by the president in 2017.

This consistent goal, however, has consistently failed. Years of U.S. war efforts have done little to convince the Taliban to stop fighting. This month, the insurgents announced the start of their annual spring offensive—a largely symbolic declaration, given that the Taliban now fights year round, even during the brutal winter months.

However, as President Donald Trump’s patience for fighting it out in Afghanistan has worn thin and his desire to bring troops home has increased, U.S. policy has changed significantly: It has given up on the idea of battering the Taliban on the battlefield and bringing the insurgents to the negotiating table from a position of weakness. Instead, it just wants direct talks with the terror group—in large part because it holds more territory than at any other time since the insurgency began in 2001, they have never been stronger.

To this point, there have been five rounds of talks, with the next round expected later this month. Zalmay Khalilzad, a seasoned Afghan-American diplomat, is the lead U.S. negotiator. The State Department—a marginalized agency during the early months of the Trump administration—is leading from the front in a determined effort to achieve what is now Washington’s prime objective in South Asia: concluding a deal with the Taliban that allows U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan.

The two sides have come close to reaching a framework agreement that would feature a timeline for a U.S. troop withdrawal and a Taliban pledge to deny space to international terrorists. Washington is also pushing the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire and to negotiations with Afghan leaders on a postwar political arrangement. However, the Taliban doesn’t want to address those latter two issues until there’s a troop withdrawal deal.


The Perils of Pushing for Talks with the Taliban

Washington has essentially agreed to enter talks with the Taliban from a position of weakness. That’s typically a no-no in negotiations.

Not surprisingly, there’s good reason to fear that these U.S.-Taliban talks won’t end well for Washington—or for Afghanistan.

First, the Taliban is on the offensive and comes into talks from a position of strength. Unlike the United States, the insurgents have no urgency to strike a deal. They have the option of turning down insufficiently generous concessions, rejecting unnecessarily harsh demands, and happily returning to a battlefield that’s been quite kind to them. By contrast, U.S. negotiators are under pressure to get a deal, because Trump wants out. Washington doesn’t have the luxury of taking it slow.

Second, the Taliban has refused to let the Afghan government join the talks until there is a U.S. troop withdrawal agreement. This raises the absurd possibility of Kabul getting shut out of the early stages of its own peace process. But because the Taliban has so much leverage, Washington is in no position to get the Taliban to relent.

Third, even if Washington and the Taliban conclude a deal, paving the way for a withdrawal of U.S. forces, the insurgents—seizing on what would be a battlefield opportunity for the ages—could decide to take up arms anew instead of laying down their arms, and try to overthrow the Afghan government instead of negotiating a deal with it.

In effect, by pursuing talks with the insurgents, Washington risks handing the keys to Kabul over to the Taliban.


The Case for the Least Bad Option

Still, despite these valid concerns, pursuing talks with the Taliban is still the right thing to do for four main reasons.


First, there is no military option. America and its allies clearly can’t defeat the Taliban on the battlefield. If more than 150,000 NATO troops couldn’t tame, much less defeat, the Taliban during the height of the surge, then you can bet your bottom dollar that the 14,000 there now can’t do so either. And there is zero political will or public appetite in Washington and other NATO capitals for a larger troop surge.

Second, the war is getting worse, and fast, with the trend lines pointing to an intensifying conflict. True, the war is in a stalemate: the Taliban enjoys ample influence and control in rural areas, while Afghan forces maintain influence and control of cities. Still, this is an increasingly bloody stalemate. Casualty figures for Afghan security forces and civilians reached their highest-ever point in 2018. Afghanistan’s opium harvests, which finance a large proportion of the Taliban’s operations, have also broken new records in recent years. And the Taliban has never controlled or contested more territory.

The sobering reality is that the Taliban keeps getting stronger, and the war keeps getting bloodier. If there’s ever been a time to double down on talks, it’s now.

The third reason why the administration should be pursuing talks with the Taliban is that conditions have never been better for them. Last June, the Taliban agreed to a brief truce to coincide with the Eid holiday, suggesting that it’s at least open to the idea of thinking about peace. Meanwhile, the Taliban has sent several of its very top officials to the talks with the United States, including a chief of staff to supreme Taliban leader Mullah Akhundzada. Also, lead Taliban negotiator Mullah Baradar is one of the group’s founding leaders. The Taliban wouldn’t be rolling out its biggest guns if it just wanted to test the waters and see what Washington has to offer in negotiations.

The fourth and most important reason for the Trump administration to pursue talks is that doing so makes it easier to justify withdrawing from Afghanistan—whether the talks succeed or not. The reasoning is simple: We’ve tried the military option, and that didn’t work. Now we’re trying the diplomatic option. If it works, great, and if it doesn’t, we can say we tried our best and then head for the exits.

There’s much to be said for getting out of Afghanistan, and especially after nearly eighteen years logged, hundreds of billions of dollars spent, and nearly 2,500 American lives lost.

If America stays in Afghanistan, then it will have to continue logging those years, spending those billions, and putting those American lives at risk—and with no reason to believe the war will end.

A Reality Check on the Risks of a Withdrawal

This isn’t to understate the risks of a U.S. withdrawal.

First, America would suffer a major reputational blow. Afghanistan would see itself having been abandoned by the United States, just as it believes it was after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. And the Taliban would score a major propaganda victory, as it could boast that it had expelled the American invaders.

Second, a U.S. withdrawal could enable America’s core strategic competitors and rivals to step into the vacuum and deepen their footprint and influence in Afghanistan. China, Iran, and Russia are all in Afghanistan’s greater neighborhood.

Third, a U.S. departure, which would deprive already-beleaguered Afghan forces of critical support, could hasten destabilization and plunge Afghanistan into chaos and perhaps even civil war. The Taliban could make major advances, seize more territory, and even threaten to take over Kabul. What would be particularly tragic, beyond the increased violence, is that the very real progress made in Afghanistan over the last eighteen years could go up in smoke. It’s easy to forget, amid all the bad news stories from Afghanistan, that the country is in a better place now than it was before the arrival of U.S. forces. There have been major advances in human rights, girl’s education, and infrastructure development.


Fourth, a U.S. withdrawal could enable Afghanistan to revert to the terrorist sanctuary that it was in the late 1990s. Organizations such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, taking advantage of worsening militancy and the state’s eroding writ, could carve out new spaces to plan attacks on U.S. interests. The history of the late 1990s could repeat itself.
These risks are as real as they are serious. However, several are overstated, and others can be mitigated.
First, a postwar Afghanistan may be too violent and chaotic for U.S. strategic rivals to deepen their footprint. While they wouldn’t admit so publicly, Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran have all benefited from the security umbrella provided by the U.S. military. In the case of Beijing and Tehran, it facilitates their ability to pursue interests in Afghanistan (such as building infrastructure projects and assisting Afghanistan’s Shia minority, respectively). And for all of them, it helps prevent the undesirable cross-border spillover effects—such as an intensified drug trade and refugee flows—that would result from greater instability.


Pakistan, which causes problems for U.S. policy because of its support for many of the militants that Washington aims to combat, is the exception here. Its deep ties to the Taliban ensure that it would retain, if not increase, its influence in Afghanistan in the event of a U.S withdrawal. However, this influence hasn’t exactly waned during the long period of the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan.
Second, it’s debatable that a U.S. withdrawal would cause Afghanistan to become a sanctuary for international terror.

Al Qaeda retains a presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, but its capacities—particularly after the elimination of many of its top leaders there—are seriously degraded. Even if given a sanctuary, it would struggle to plan large-scale, international attacks. Moreover, the Taliban—even if it rejects Washington’s demand to sever ties with international terrorists—has no incentive to go out of its way to accommodate Al Qaeda and offer it shelter. The Taliban, a formidable fighting force, doesn’t need Al Qaeda’s money, or its foot soldiers, as it did years back.

The Islamic State, meanwhile, boasts several hundred fighters in Afghanistan, and it has claimed attacks there. However, the Islamic State is no friend of the Taliban’s—or of any other major militant group in the country or broader region. The Islamic State is an Al Qaeda rival. The Taliban, and most militant actors in Afghanistan, are aligned with Al Qaeda. Additionally, the Islamic State’s embrace of the Salafist sect of Islam puts it at odds with the Taliban and most other jihadists of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, most of whom adhere to Deobandism. Unsurprisingly, instead of seeking accommodation with Islamic State, the Taliban has done battle with it. In effect, Islamic State faces a hostile neighborhood in Afghanistan that will constrain any efforts to establish a sanctuary.

In the end, from a stability risk lens, the most likely outcome of a U.S. withdrawal is a more destabilized Afghanistan that delivers major victories for the Taliban but falls short of becoming a terrorist sanctuary. This is a dangerous scenario—but one that doesn’t pose as much of a threat to U.S. interests as would a situation where global jihadists are able to use Afghanistan as a base to plan attacks on American targets around the world.
In the event of a withdrawal, Washington’s best option for trying to mitigate the risk of a rapidly destabilizing Afghanistan would be ensuring a continuation of funds to the Afghan security forces—even if at considerably lower levels than they are presently.

Indeed, if anything is going to cause Afghanistan to collapse into chaos and civil war, it’s not America cutting and running—it’s America cutting off funds to an Afghan military that is deeply dependent on American largesse.

When the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan, the Soviet-backed Afghan government did not collapse. It survived a few more years. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union, when assistance to Afghanistan was cut off, did the Afghan government fall and large-scale conflict broke out.


Predictability Amid Uncertainty
The coming weeks and months are fraught with uncertainty for Afghanistan. There may or may not be a deal between the United States and the Taliban, and if there is a deal, then it may or may not lead to formal peace talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government. Afghanistan’s broader political future—and in particular how ongoing negotiations with the Taliban might impact a presidential election scheduled for September—is also up in the air.

Washington’s immediate plans in Afghanistan, by contrast, are quite predictable. Plans A, B, and C revolve around talks with the Taliban. Ultimately, talking to the Taliban will make it easier to prepare for, and rationalize, an inevitable departure—one that an impatient President Trump is likely to push for sooner rather than later.

That U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, whenever it comes, will be messy and risky—but not necessarily one with consequences as catastrophic as those urging a stay-the-course policy may suggest.


Michael Kugelman is senior associate for South Asia and deputy director of the Asia Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

 

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APRIL 24, 2019
U.N.: Pro-Afghan forces killed more civilians than Taliban, IS in 2019
By Darryl Coote


The United Nations said the decrease in casualties is the result of a 76 percent drop in the number of suicide bombings by anti-government forces in Afghanistan. Photo by EPA-EFE


April 24 (UPI) -- Despite an overall decrease in the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, pro-Afghan government and international military forces were responsible for more civilian deaths in the first quarter of 2019 than the Taliban and the Islamic State, according to a new United Nations report.

From Jan. 1 to March 31, 305 deaths were attributed to pro-government forces while 227 civilian deaths were attributed to anti-government elements, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in its quarterly report.

The report attributed 115 deaths to the Afghan National Security Forces, 146 to international military forces, 41 to pro-government armed groups and 30 to multiple pro-government forces.

For the anti-government side, the report attributed 173 civilian deaths to the Taliban, 43 deaths to the Islamic State and 11 to undetermined anti-government elements.

A further 49 civilian deaths were classified as undetermined or joint attribution.

Meanwhile, the U.N. mission said anti-government forces were responsible for the highest number of civilian casualties, meaning both deaths and injured, with 963, while pro-government forces incurred 608 casualties.

Overall, the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan decreased by 23 percent year-on-year to 1,773 during the first quarter of 2019, hitting its lowest mark for the first quarter since 2013.

In 2018, the U.N. recorded 2,305 civilian casualties.
"The overall reduction of civilian casualties was driven by a decrease in civilian casualties by suicide improvised explosive device attacks," the report said. "UNAMA notes that particularly harsh winter conditions during the first three months of the year, which may have contributed to this trend."

It said that drop in the number of civilian casualties was largely driven by a reduction in civilians killed in suicide attacks, saying there were 76 percent fewer casualties from such attacks on-year.

The report points out that it cannot say if any measures taken by either party to protect civilians is the reason for the decrease in civilian casualties.
"UNAMA attributed 17 percent of civilian casualties to the Afghan national security forces, 13 percent to international military forces, 2 percent to pro-government armed groups and 2 percent to multiple pro-government forces," the report said.

It said it is concerned by the increase in civilian casualties at the hands of anti-government forces with the use of non-suicide improvised explosive devices while stating pro-government forces showed an increase in civilian casualties as the result of aerial and search operations.

"A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day," U.N. Secretary-Generals' Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said in a statement. "In particular, anti-government elements need to stop deliberately targeting civilians and using IEDs, which cause indiscriminate harm."

He added that pro-government forces are called upon "to take immediate measures to mitigate the rising death toll and suffering caused by airstrikes and search operations."

U.N.: Pro-Afghan forces killed more civilians than Taliban, IS in 2019
 

BATMAN

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It would be much better for US to leave Afghanistan, because they have been very unjust to locals.
US have installed pro-Iran regime in Afghanistan, which will never be in peace with native Afghans and this is common sense.
 

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US-Taliban Resume Talks Amid Optimism
May 01, 2019
by Ayaz Gul

ISLAMABAD —
The United States and the Taliban have begun a new round of negotiations in Doha, Qatar, in a bid to advance peace efforts in Afghanistan and to urge the insurgent group to participate in an inclusive intra-Afghan dialogue.

U.S. special reconciliation envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, led the U.S. team Wednesday in talks with insurgent leaders based in the Qatari capital, officials said.

A Taliban official told VOA the discussions would focus on fleshing out “some remaining details” of a preliminary agreement the two sides had reached in their last meeting in early March. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, anticipated further progress in the talks, but would not speculate how long this meeting might last.

The insurgent group has underscored the need for finalizing an agreement on the withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign troops before it discusses other issues.

Prior to Wednesday's formal negotiations, Khalilzad met with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy Taliban leader for political affairs and head of the group’s informal office in Doha.

“It is absolutely vital that the two key agenda points of the previous meeting (full withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and preventing Afghanistan from harming others) be finalized,” a Taliban statement quoted Baradar as telling the U.S. chief negotiator. "This will open the way for resolving other aspects of the issue and we cannot enter into other topics before this,” he stressed.

If finalized, the U.S.-Taliban agreement would bind the insurgent group to prevent transnational terrorist networks from using Afghan soil to harm other countries, and Washington in return would agree to a timetable for withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.

Khalilzad, however, has repeatedly stated a comprehensive Taliban cease-fire and the rebel group's participation in intra-Afghan peace discussions would be key to concluding the deal.

The Afghan government has been excluded from the dialogue because the insurgent group has maintained from the outset it will not participate in any formal internal Afghan peace discussions until Washington agrees and announces a foreign troop withdrawal timeline.

Wednesday’s talks came as a four-day "Consultative Peace Loya Jirga" is underway in Kabul to debate the framework for negotiations with the Taliban. The assembly, which began Monday, was convened by President Ashraf Ghani, but most of the candidates contesting upcoming presidential elections have boycotted the meeting. They called it electioneering by Ghani, who is also seeking election in the September 28 polls.

Afghan presidential envoy, Umer Daudzai, Wednesday dismissed the criticism, saying the peace process is the focus of what he described as “the biggest” and “the most inclusive” Loya Jirga of the history of Afghanistan.

Daudzai explained U.S.-led peace efforts had generated a debate inside the country and those widespread debates needed to be provided with a national “direction and platform” to help the peace process.

“There was no other mechanism than Loya Jirga to bring all those debates together to turn it into one grand debate that will transform into a list of recommendations to the Afghan state and to international community, and perhaps to the Taliban,” the presidential envoy noted.

Daudzai asserted that representatives from Taliban-control districts have also come to attend the ongoing traditional assembly in the Afghan capital, thanking the insurgents “if they have not intentionally hindered” the delegates from traveling Kabul.

The Taliban has already rejected the assembly as a ploy to help Ghani extend his rule and damage the group’s ongoing peace talks with America.

Prior to his arrival in Qatar, ambassador Khalilzad held talks with leaders in Pakistan and sought their help to convince the Taliban to participate in intra-Afghan talks.

The Afghan-born American diplomat tweeted on Tuesday that “Pakistan supports efforts to accelerate intra-afghan dialogue and negotiations, and is committed to helping reduce violence in Afghanistan.”

“I'm also encouraged by the role Pakistan wants to play in building regional consensus in support of the Afghan peace process. The time to implement has come,” said Khalilzad.

Islamabad is accused of covertly supporting and sheltering insurgent leaders, takes credit for arranging the ongoing U.S.-Taliban dialogue. Pakistan’s own security and stability requires a peaceful Afghanistan, say Pakistani officials while underscoring their role in the Afghan peace process.

“We strongly hope that our sincere efforts for ending decades of insecurity and establishing peace in Afghanistan will succeed,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Wednesday while talking to a visiting delegation of Afghan experts.

 

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US Stops Collecting Data Showing Afghan Government Losing Ground
May 01, 2019
by Jeff Seldin

WASHINGTON —
The U.S.-led NATO mission in Afghanistan is no longer collecting data showing the Afghan government steadily losing ground to the Taliban, telling a U.S. government watchdog the information was “of limited decision-making value.”

The so-called district-level stability assessments, which measure the number of the country’s districts under government or insurgent control or influence, have been one of the most widely cited indicators of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan.

But the U.S.-commanded Resolute Support mission told the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) in March the assessments were no longer being produced.
“District stability data has not been collected since the October 22, 2018 data submitted last quarter,” Resolute Support wrote in response to SIGAR’s request for the information ahead of its latest report, released Wednesday.
“There are no products at command or other forums that communicate district stability or control information,” the letter added.

According to SIGAR, U.S. defense officials also said the assessments were “not indicative of effectiveness of the South Asia strategy or of progress toward security and stability.”

The SIGAR quarterly report also quoted defense officials as saying it was “more important to instead focus on the principal goal of the strategy of concluding the war in Afghanistan on terms favorable to Afghanistan and the United States.”

When asked for about the decision to end the assessments, a spokesman for Resolute Support referred VOA to the letter sent to the special inspector general.

In a statement accompanying the report’s release, SIGAR decried the loss of the data.

“Despite its limitations, the control data was the only unclassified metric provided by [Resolute Support] that consistently tracked changes to the security situation on the ground,” SIGAR said.

SIGAR also noted that previous commanders of the Resolute Support mission “had previously cited its importance in public statements.”

The U.S.-led mission’s decision to eliminate the stability assessments comes after successive reports showed the Afghan government’s control of the country falling to record lows.

Low levels of control, influence

In its November 2018 report, SIGAR said the Afghan government controlled or influenced only 56 percent of the country’s districts, at the time the lowest level recorded since the watchdog began tracking district control in November 2015.

In SIGAR’s subsequent report, issued this past January, that number had slipped to less than 54 percent, as the Afghan government lost seven districts to the Taliban.

According to some, the figures suggest U.S. President Donald Trump's strategy for Afghanistan, meant to increase pressure on the Taliban and force them to negotiate an end to decades of fighting, is not having the level of success claimed by administration officials.

Other data collected for the latest SIGAR report also show reason for concern.

According to Resolute Support, the average number of attacks initiated by the Taliban jumped 19 percent for the three-month period ending in January. And according to U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, the number of casualties suffered by Afghan forces were 31 percent higher than compared to the same period last year.

“Ultimately, I don’t think we’ve met all of our strategic goals there,” U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction John Sopko told reporters last week, ahead of the report’s release.
https://www.voanews.com/a/us-official-afghan-peace-deal-could-trigger-internal-woes/4890152.html
“We were going to get the terrorists out and create a government that could keep the terrorists out,” he said. “Obviously, we haven’t kicked the terrorists out if they’re still blowing things up and we’re negotiating with them. That strategic goal has now changed.”

Sopko also raised concerns that measuring U.S. progress in Afghanistan has become increasingly difficult, as U.S. and Afghan officials are collecting less data and are preventing other information from going public.

“What we are finding now is almost every indicia, metrics, however you want to phrase it, for success or failure is now classified or non-existent,” he said, adding that hiding or eliminating would appear pointless.

“The Afghan people obviously know which districts are controlled by the Taliban. The Taliban obviously know which districts they control. Our military knows it. Everybody in Afghanistan knows it,” he said. “The only people who don’t know what is going on are the people who are paying for all of this, and that’s the American taxpayer.”

 

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U.S. military stops tracking key metric on Afghan war as situation deteriorates
May 1, 2019
Idrees Ali


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. military has stopped tracking the amount of territory controlled or influenced by the Afghan government and militants, a U.S. watchdog said on Tuesday, one of the last remaining public metrics that tracked the worsening security situation in the war-torn country.

The move comes as U.S. and Taliban officials have held several rounds of talks aimed at ensuring a safe exit for U.S. forces in return for a Taliban guarantee that Afghanistan will not be used by militants to threaten the rest of the world.

The Taliban announced the start of a spring offensive in early April. Even before the announcement, combat had intensified across Afghanistan in recent weeks and hundreds of Afghan troops and civilians have been killed.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a report published late Tuesday night that the U.S. military had told the watchdog it was no longer tracking the level of control or influence the Afghan government and militants had over districts in the country.

The NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission in Afghanistan had told SIGAR that the assessments were “of limited decision-making value to the (RS) Commander.”

Colonel David Butler, spokesman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, said that while Resolute Support was no longer doing the analyses, the intelligence community did its own classified assessment of districts controlled by the government and Taliban. He did not speculate on whether the intelligence community analyses would continue or not.

“This much is clear: There’s even less information for American taxpayers to gauge whether their investment in Afghanistan is a success, or something else,” John Sopko, the head of SIGAR, told Reuters.

A January report put districts under government control or influence at 53.8 per cent covering 63.5 percent of the population by October 2018, with the rest of the country controlled or contested by the Taliban.

Experts said that the move to stop tracking the key data was worrying because Washington had publicly set a benchmark which would now be difficult to measure.


In November 2017, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan at the time set a goal of driving back Taliban insurgents enough for the government to control at least 80 percent of the country within two years.

“If the military is not going to be tracking that data anymore, that is going to make it a lot more difficult to get a sense as to how strong the Taliban is,” Michael Kugelman, with the Woodrow Wilson Center, said.

“That may well be the military’s intention,” he said.

DIMINISHING ACCOUNTABILITY
Over the past few years, the U.S. military has restricted data on the Afghan war being shared with the public, including the size of the security forces, casualty numbers and the attrition rate for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

In 2018, the U.S. military said a “human error in labeling” caused it to treat as classified information the amount of territory controlled or influenced by the Taliban and the Afghan government.

The rest of the report painted a bleak picture of the security situation in Afghanistan.

Citing numbers from Resolute Support, SIGAR said the monthly average of enemy-initiated attacks increased by 19 percent from November 2018 through January 2019 compared to between August to October 2018.


ANDSF casualties increased by about 31 percent from December through February compared to the same three-month period last year.

“The latest data from the few remaining publicly available measures of the security situation in Afghanistan - enemy-initiated attacks, general ANDSF casualty trends, and security incidents - show that Afghanistan experienced heightened insecurity,” the report said.

Reporting by Idrees Ali in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish


https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-u...n-war-as-situation-deteriorates-idUKKCN1S734G
 

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MAY 1, 2019
U.S., Taliban begin new peace negotiations for Afghan withdrawal
By Nicholas Sakelaris


Soldiers of the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade board a Chinook helicopter to conduct missions across the Combined Joint Operations Area- Afghanistan. UPI Photo/File


May 1 (UPI) -- Discussions between U.S. and Taliban mediators started Wednesday in Qatar with the goal of creating a lasting peace and a phased withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
The talks center around four main issues -- removal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, guarantees against terrorism, peace talks between the Taliban and the pro-U.S. Afghan government and a lasting cease-fire.

Wednesday's discussions in Doha are the highest level talks the two sides have had since the Trump administration made a push for negotiations last year.
One sticking point is the Taliban's refusal to recognize Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's regime, which the group views as a puppet government of the United States. The Taliban has refused to hold peace talks with Afghan officials, as the most recent planned meeting last week was called off.

The clock is ticking if Afghanistan wants to reach a final agreement before national elections in September. Ghani faces tough opposition from rivals who have already started forming an interim government.

The new peace talks come one week after the United States, China and Russia met in Moscow to discuss the Afghan peace process. The U.S. State Department said last week the Taliban could be used to fight against the Islamic State terror group.
"They take note of the Afghan Taliban's commitment to: fight ISIS and cut ties with Al-Qaeda, ETIM and international terrorist groups, ensure the areas they control will not be used to threaten any other country; and call on them to prevent terrorist recruiting, training and fundraising and expel any known terrorist," the State Department said in a statement.

U.S., Taliban begin new peace negotiations for Afghan withdrawal
 

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Afghan pilot training ends after almost half went AWOL in America
By: Kyle Rempfer  
02.May.2015

An Afghan pilot conducts training in a C-208 Caravan over Kabul, Afghanistan as part of the Train Advise and Assist Command's (TAAC-Air) mission on Dec. 18, 2018. (Sr. Amn. Maygan Straight/Air Force)

A program to train Afghan attack pilots has been ended after the airmen kept going absent without leave, or AWOL, while training in the United States.

More than 40 percent of the Afghan Air Force students enrolled in the U.S.-based training program to fly the AC-208 Combat Caravan, a light attack combat aircraft, went AWOL, according to a quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

The training took place at Fort Worth, Texas, SIGAR told Air Force Times. Northrop Grumman operates a 5,000 square-foot custom-built classroom space located at Meacham Airport in Fort Worth.

“The AC-208 Training Center of Excellence is designed to provide partner nations with instructional classroom activities and initial aircrew and maintenance training on the Northrop Grumman modified AC-208 Eliminator aircraft,” a Northrop Grumman press release reads.

Those students that did not go AWOL were pulled back to Afghanistan to complete their training. As a result, only one class graduated from the U.S.-based program. The second and third classes will continue and finish their training in Afghanistan.

SIGAR said they did not have data on whether the AWOL pilots were recovered. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

However, the phenomenon is neither new, nor limited to Afghan Air Force trainees.

“We found that nearly half of all foreign military trainees that went AWOL while training in the United States since 2005 were from Afghanistan (152 of 320),” SIGAR reported in October 2017. “Of the 152 AWOL Afghan trainees, 83 either fled the United States after going AWOL or remain unaccounted for.”

NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan maintains a cohort of advisers to train Afghan airmen known as Train Advise Assist Command – Air, or TAAC-Air.

TAAC-Air told the inspector general that it has a plan to continue the student training and is developing a contract solution to support the effort to train the initial group of AC-208 aircrew.

Afghan pilots are a common target for Taliban hitmen, who know taking out highly-qualified attack pilots has a major impact on the battlefield.

It is not uncommon for Afghans to go AWOL while training in the U.S., with many claiming asylum after being apprehended. Those asylum claims are sometimes approved, as was the case of an Afghan officer who slipped away from a U.S. training exercise in Massachusetts, according to the Associated Press.

The first female Afghan pilot was also granted asylum after she continuously received death threats, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The Afghan Air Force has had some notable success in the past year, as A-29 attack pilots began flying night-time raids and dropping laser-guided bombs in combat without coalition advisers assisting them.

However, the operational success is tempered by shortfalls on the maintenance side of the mission. The Afghans still rely on contractor support for maintaining aircraft, and the number of Afghan airmen trained to provide airmen is consistently below authorized manpower levels.

U.S. contractors who provide maintenance assistance will not be able to stay in country to continue their work if U.S. troops are no longer in place to provide security, the Pentagon inspector general has warned in the past.

In the case of some airframes, such as UH-60 Black Hawks, Afghan pilots are not trained and qualified at a fast enough rate to keep pace with deliveries of the aircraft.

Although the Mi-17 fleet forms the backbone of the Afghan Air Force, the U.S. government plans to supply 159 UH-60 Black Hawks to Afghanistan by 2024.

 

BATMAN

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There's no end to such discussions.
Bottom line from locals PoV; US shall leave, where as US don't want to leave, instead like to negotiate.
 

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US operations in Afghanistan caused 134 civilian casualties in 2018, says Pentagon
by Gabriel Dominguez, London
03 May 2019

US military operations in Afghanistan caused 134 civilian casualties in 2018, according to a report published on 2 May by the US Department of Defense (DoD).

A total of 76 civilians were killed and 58 injured during missions conducted as part of Operation ‘Freedom’s Sentinel’ and those in support of the NATO-led ‘Resolute Support’ mission, according to DoD data.

The vast majority (70) of those killed died as a result of aerial operations with the remaining six dying as a result of ground missions.

The Pentagon said that US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) conducted counter-terrorism missions against al-Qaeda, Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), and associated militant groups to “prevent their resurgence and ability to plan and execute external attacks”.

 

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Violence Continues In Afghanistan After Loya Jirga Urges Truce
May 04, 2019
By RFE/RL
The attacks came after a Loya Jirga council convened by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ended with a demand for an immediate cease-fire.

The attacks came after a Loya Jirga council convened by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ended with a demand for an immediate cease-fire.

At least seven Afghan policemen were killed when suspected Taliban militants stormed checkpoints overnight in western Badghis Province, officials said.

Mohammad Naser Nazari, a provincial councilman, said on May 4 that three other security personnel were wounded during the attack in the Qadis district.

The Taliban did not comment on the attack.

Elsewhere, the Afghan Defense Ministry said two separate coalition air strikes on May 3 killed at least 43 suspected Islamic State (IS) militants in eastern Kunar Province.

In a statement, the ministry said the strikes targeted suspected IS militants in Chapara district. It said an unspecified number of Uzbek and Pakistani nationals were among those killed.

Kunar Province

Kunar Province

Analysts say both the Taliban and IS are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially in the provinces of Kunar and Nangarhar, which border Pakistan.

The reports of fresh violence come a day after an Afghan grand council convened by President Ashraf Ghani ended with a demand for an immediate cease-fire.

The council -- known as the Loya Jirga -- brought together more than 3,200 politicians, tribal elders, prominent figures and others to hammer out a shared strategy for future negotiations with the Taliban.

"I want to say to the Taliban that the choice is now in your hands," Ghani said at the closing ceremony in Kabul. "Now it is your turn to show what you want to do."

Ghani said the message of the five-day gathering was clear: "Afghans want peace" and offered a cease-fire, though he stressed it would not be unilateral.

Ghani also vowed to free 175 Taliban prisoners ahead of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, which starts next week.

In a statement on May 3, the Taliban rejected a cease-fire, saying attacks will continue during Ramadan but said "fighters are very careful of civilians during any operation."

The group has rejected cease-fire proposals saying U.S. and NATO troops must withdraw from the country first.

The grand council produced a 23-point list for peace-talks with the Taliban, including a truce for Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn till dusk.
The Loya Jirga also urged the government to form a strong negotiating team and said at least 50 of its members should represent victims of wars.
The council also backed women's rights, in keeping with the tenets of Islam.

 

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