The highest U.S. commander in Afghanistan performed down a spate of current Taliban assaults on Wednesday, saying violence ranges had been nonetheless decrease than common as some insurgents talked peace — a state of affairs he described as “speaking and preventing.”
“You see mid-level, senior-level Taliban leaders partaking with Afghans,” mentioned Military Normal John Nicholson, including that numerous the diplomatic exercise was going down “off the stage.”
Nicholson’s remarks got here the identical day that gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers tried to penetrate the closely fortified headquarters of the Afghan inside ministry, battling safety forces for greater than two hours within the newest assault on the capital Kabul.
The assault was a reminder of the challenges dealing with U.S.-backed Afghan forces even after 16 years of struggle, together with within the capital Kabul. Final month, two explosions in Kabul killed at the very least 26 folks, together with 9 journalists.
Nicholson mentioned preliminary indications prompt Taliban and the Haqqani community had been behind the assault, although Islamic State claimed accountability.
In his remarks to Pentagon reporters, Nicholson sought to underscore knowledge and occasions he mentioned level to ahead progress in America’s longest struggle. Critics warn the U.S.-backed Afghan military can’t promise to defeat the Taliban or overcome Afghanistan’s huge political divisions and entrenched corruption.
Greater than 2,400 U.S. forces have died within the battle.
Nicholson pointed to unreleased knowledge displaying a 30 % decline in assaults initiated by the insurgents between February and April, in contrast with the common over the earlier 5 years. Assaults elevated after the Taliban introduced their spring offensive on April 25 however the violence was nonetheless 10 to 12 % decrease, he mentioned.
U.S. officers in recent times have declined to supply knowledge on ranges of assaults initiated by insurgents, saying that the USA not had a large enough intelligence gathering operation in Afghanistan to publish dependable estimates.
Nicholson acknowledged a lot of his knowledge drew upon the Afghan authorities’s estimates, which the U.S. authorities has lengthy thought-about much less dependable. However when pressed through the information briefing, Nicholson mentioned he was nonetheless assured within the pattern prompt by the info.
“If this had been a matter of some share factors, I would have much less confidence,” he mentioned.
He additionally drew comparisons to Colombia, the place insurgents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and authorities forces had been preventing earlier than a 2016 peace settlement.
Nonetheless, many consultants say there are enormous variations between the Colombian and Afghan conflicts.
“The concept that we’re making the identical form of progress ]as in Colombia] is greedy at straws for justification,” mentioned Jason Dempsey, an adjunct senior fellow on the Middle for New American Safety think-tank who deployed twice to Afghanistan.
Nicholson highlighted a grassroots “peace motion,” which he mentioned was not aligned to any occasion in Afghanistan’s almost 17-year-old battle. He mentioned it has held occasions in 20 Afghan provinces, calling for ceasefires and peace talks.
“And this has by no means occurred earlier than in Afghanistan, to my data, over 20 provinces,” he mentioned.
Requested about how this could have an effect on the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, Nicholson mentioned: “The top state of the coverage is to attain a reconciliation.”