US envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad expressed hope that a peace treaty might be concluded this year and said Russia played a “positive role” in the talks, as US generals who fought there conceded the war was lost long ago.
Speaking at the US Institute for Peace (USIP) on Friday, Khalilzad said it would be best for Afghanistan if a peace agreement is reached before the elections, which are scheduled for July. He expressed cautious optimism, but warned that there is “a lot of work” to do still.
“We want a peace agreement in Afghanistan. We want to see the war end. We want to see the war end this year,” said Khalilzad, who was appointed peace envoy by the Trump administration in September 2018, and has already met with Taliban officials to negotiate peace.
Asked about the talks held in Moscow earlier this week, which involved the Taliban, the Afghan diaspora in Russia and former government officials – but not a delegation from the current government in Kabul – Khalilzad said he did not want to “monopolize the diplomacy of peace.”
We welcome a positive Russian role that facilitates reconciliation, that facilitates a peace settlement, that facilitates inter-Afghan dialogue
“We’ll thank anyone who will play a positive role and give them the credit they deserve,” he added.
Several retired US generals who have spent years fighting in Afghanistan have welcomed the news of a possible peace treaty, but remained bitter about what the 17-year war did to the soldiers under their command.
“It’s going to be a bitter pill,” for the soldiers, retired US Army Brigadier General Donald Bolduc told Yahoo News. “They did what they were asked, they did the right thing, and they watched their teammates get maimed, get killed, and because of the failure of our policymakers and our senior military leaders they’re going to have to swallow this pill.”
Like it or not, we have lost
Bolduc and several other generals agreed that the US-backed government in Kabul will crumble relatively quickly without US military support. Major-General Jeff Schloesser, who commanded the 101st Airborne Division, argued for a residual US military presence to safeguard US interests in Afghanistan.
General David Petraeus, who commanded the entire Afghan operation in 2010-2011 before taking over as the CIA director under President Barack Obama, actually opposed any withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“Frankly, it seems to me that we should be able to sustain this commitment, given the importance of our policy objectives and the sustainability in terms of the cost,” Petraeus wrote in an email.
Another general, who was not named, speculated that the US should have accepted a Taliban surrender in late 2001. Now, he said, the war was “concluding on the Taliban’s terms.”
The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, accusing the Taliban of harboring Osama Bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Bin Laden was tracked down and killed in 2011, in Pakistan, but the US continued to maintain troops in Afghanistan to prop up the government in Kabul, even as Taliban has continued to gain territory.
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