Top US general meets with Taliban negotiators
The top general in the U.S. military met with Taliban negotiators in Qatar this week in a bid to reduce violence in Afghanistan, his office said Thursday.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and State Department representatives met with Taliban representatives in Doha “as part of the military channel established in the U.S.-Taliban agreement,” his spokesperson, Cmdr. Sarah Flaherty, said in a statement.
“The chairman discussed the need for an immediate reduction of violence and accelerate progress towards a negotiated political solution which contributes to regional stability and safeguards U.S. national interests,” Flaherty added.
The Tuesday meeting was actually Milley’s second with the Taliban, according to the Associated Press, one of three news outlets traveling with him. The first, previously undisclosed meeting happened in June in Doha.
No breakthrough was reported Thursday, but the top U.S. general meeting face-to-face with insurgents the United States has been fighting for 19 years is heavy with symbolism as America seeks to wind down its longest war. Milley himself served three tours of duty in Afghanistan.
After the latest Taliban meeting, Milley flew to Afghanistan and met with President Ashraf Ghani.
Milley and Ghani “discussed the current security environment in Afghanistan,” Flaherty said in a separate statement. “The United States remains fully committed to helping Afghans create a secure and stable Afghanistan by supporting inclusive efforts to achieve peace.”
The U.S. military is in the process of fulfilling President Trump’s order to draw down to 2,500 troops in the country by Jan. 15, days before he is set to leave office.
President-elect Joe Biden has said he would withdraw most troops from Afghanistan, but leave a small contingent of special forces there to conduct counterterrorism missions.
Trump has continued to push forward with drawing down in Afghanistan even as U.S. and military officials have said the Taliban has yet to meet commitments it agreed to in February.
The U.S.-Taliban deal calls for a full U.S. withdrawal by this coming May if the Taliban upholds counterterrorism commitments such as denying safe haven to al Qaeda.
In addition to not yet breaking with al Qaeda, the Taliban has stepped up attacks against Afghan forces, drawing condemnation from U.S. officials.
“The most important part of the discussions that I had with both the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan was the need for an immediate reduction in violence,” Milley told reporters traveling with him, according to the AP. “Everything else hinges on that.”