Spike in Taliban attacks 'unhelpful' to Afghan peace push: U.S. general

Spike in Taliban attacks
# 08 September 2019 00:21 (UTC +04:00)

A spike in attacks by Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan has been “particularly unhelpful” to peace efforts there, a senior U.S. military commander cautioned on Saturday as he visited neighboring Pakistan, where many Taliban militants are based, APA reports citing Reuters.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees American troops in the region, declined to comment on the diplomatic negotiations themselves.

But the remarks represent the latest sign of how a wave of Taliban violence has cast a long shadow over a draft peace deal struck between U.S. and Taliban negotiators this week that could lead to a drawdown in U.S. troops from America’s longest war.

“It is particularly unhelpful at this moment in Afghanistan’s history for the Taliban to ramp up violence,” McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, told reporters traveling with him.

Taliban fighters, who now control more territory than at any time since 2001, launched fresh assaults on the northern cities of Kunduz and Pul-e Khumri over the past week and carried out two major suicide bombings in the capital Kabul.

One of the blasts took the life of U.S. Army Sergeant 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, from Puerto Rico, bringing the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan this year to 16.

McKenzie said that, for the peace process to move forward, “all parties should be committed to an eventual political settlement” which, in turn, should result in reduced violence, he added.

“If we can’t get that going in, then it is difficult to see the parties are going to be able to carry out the terms of the agreement, whatever they might or might not be,” McKenzie said.

Under the draft accord, thousands of U.S. troops would be withdrawn over the coming months in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States and its allies.

However, a full peace agreement to end more than 18 years of war would depend on subsequent “intra Afghan” talks. The Taliban have rejected calls for a ceasefire and instead stepped up operations across the country.

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