The top US military officer has admitted that the Taliban "are not losing" in Afghanistan and much more needs to be done to bring peace to the war-torn country 17 years into the longest war in American history.
"They are not losing right now, I think that is fair to say," General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the Taliban during a discussion at a security forum in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Sunday. "We used the term stalemate a year ago and, relatively speaking, it has not changed much."
The top US military officer said while there was no "military solution" to peace in Afghanistan, Washington and its allies in the NATO military alliance were trying to use all their military, political and economic potentials in a bid to convince the Taliban that it was time to come to the negotiation table.
"Without going into detail here, we do believe the Taliban know that at some point they do have to reconcile," he said. "The key to success is to combine all that pressure to incentivize the Taliban" to negotiate.
The commander said reconciliation was still too far-fetched, conceding that “we are a long way" from that stage.
Despite Dunford’s claims that Washington sees no military solution, US President Donald Trump’s strategy for the long-running war revolves around bringing more troops and use them to force a political resolution to militant groups.
The new strategy, unveiled last year, announced an increase in US troop levels, bringing the total number of foreign foot soldiers in the country to about 14,000.
The US State Department has named former US Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad as its special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation process.
Khalilzad has traveled to the region to meet national government officials and the Taliban to try and jump-start a dialogue. But progress has proven elusive.
That is partly because the Taliban are gaining strength as the Afghan government in Kabul struggles to keep ground.
The US government's overseer for the military push in Afghanistan warned in a report earlier this month that the Taliban had cemented their position by taking control over larger chunks of the country while the Afghan government had seen its control shrink to about 56 percent of the land -- down from 72 percent in 2015.
Also contributing to the issue is the fact that Afghan security forces who took over in 2014 -- after undergoing years of US training – have failed to secure the country and suffered a high number of casualties in their battle against the Taliban.
US Defense Secretary James Mattis said last month that Afghan forces had sustained "over a thousand dead and wounded" in August and September in their effort to protect Afghan parliamentary elections in October.
The long-delayed vote dissolved into chaos as blasts rocked polling centers across Kabul, forcing authorities to extend voting in some constituencies.
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