Taliban signal they have already won: report

The Taliban are trumpeting that they have already won the war in Afghanistan, with little apparent interest in making concessions in negotiating a peace deal, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Peace talks in Turkey are set to begin next month, but the Taliban — who have slowly overrun Afghan military bases, steadily taken control of large swaths of countryside and encroached on cities — now have the advantage in the country. The insurgent group’s dominance makes it unlikely it will agree to power sharing with the Afghan government once the United States makes its intended exit.

A senior Western diplomat in Kabul told the Times that Afghan security forces have a “not sustainable” casualty rate of roughly 3,000, a figure that has led to the abandonment of dozens of checkpoints and falling morale.

The Taliban, which relies heavily on propaganda, is well aware of its upper hand, as displayed in a recent speech by deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, who said that the group is “experiencing better circumstances,” and “will crush the arrogance of the rebellious emperors, and force them to admit their defeat at our hands.”

About 3,500 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, and President Biden is facing a May 1 deadline to withdraw them all under an agreement made last year between the Taliban and the Trump administration.

Under the deal, the U.S. is to withdraw contingent on the Taliban fulfilling certain commitments, including breaking from al Qaeda and reducing violence in Afghanistan. But the U.S. military has said the insurgents have yet to meet these agreements.

Biden last week indicated he will not follow the May 1 deadline, saying it will be “hard” to withdraw forces by that date.

Also last week, U.S. Special Operations Command head Gen. Richard Clarke said the Taliban is not adhering to its agreement and that Afghan forces still need U.S. help to fight them. 

But because Biden also said he doesn’t expect to have American forces on the ground in Afghanistan next year, the Taliban only have to bide their time and wait for a withdrawal. 

A senior official told reporters earlier this month that a compromise, coalition government, an idea proposed by Washington, would simply be used by the Taliban as a “Trojan horse” to take power.

It was “totally unrealistic” to think the insurgents would agree to it, “knowing their psychology,” the official said, according to the Times. “I am not promising a better situation in the future. But we will continue fighting.”

Tags Afghan peace process Joe Biden Taliban War in Afghanistan

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