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‘We were losing ground each year’ in Afghanistan: Zalmay Khalilzad

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad testifies at a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on May 18, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

The former US special representative for Afghanistan has said the United States has failed to build a “democratic Afghanistan” after two decades of war in the country, adding that the US military was “losing ground each year” to the Taliban.

In an interview on Sunday with CBS News, Zalmay Khalilzad said that “militarily things were not going” well for the United States which forced Washington to leave the country.

“I think with regard to terrorism, we largely have achieved that objective. On the issue of building a democratic Afghanistan - I think that - that did not succeed. The struggle goes on,” Khalilzad said.

“The Talibs are a reality of Afghanistan. We did not defeat them. In fact, they were making progress on the battlefield even as we were negotiating with them. And the reason we negotiated with them was because militarily things were not going as well as we would have liked. We were losing ground each year,” the former US envoy to Afghanistan lamented.

He pointed out that in order to reverse the progress that the Taliban were making in Afghanistan, it was “going to require a lot more effort.”

Khalilzad’s remarks came days after he resigned from his post as the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, following the American military’s humiliating defeat in the twenty-year war in the country.

The Biden administration’s top envoy for Afghanistan told Secretary of State Antony Blinken that it was "the right time" to leave, "at a juncture when we are entering a new phase in our Afghanistan policy."

Khalilzad served under both former Republican president Donald Trump and current Democratic President Joe Biden as the special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation.

He led several rounds of talks with the Taliban in Qatar that resulted in the Trump administration’s agreement to leave Afghanistan by May 2021. Biden pulled out US troops from the country by August 31.

The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. American forces occupied the country for about two decades on the pretext of fighting against the Taliban. But as the US forces left Afghanistan, the Taliban stormed into Kabul, weakened by continued foreign occupation.

Following the 9/11 attacks, the United States invaded and occupied Afghanistan, despite the fact that no Afghan was involved in the attacks. Hundreds of thousands of Afghans died in the US war on the country.

In his first congressional testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee members on September 28, Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called the war in Afghanistan a “strategic failure”. He added, “There’s no way else to describe that.”


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