With the surge of US troops over and the Taliban still a potent threat, US generals and civilian officials acknowledge that they have all but written off what was once one of the cornerstones of their strategy to end the war here: battering the Taliban into a peace deal.
The once ambitious US plans for ending the war are now being replaced by the far more modest goal of setting the stage for the Afghans to work out a deal among themselves in the years after most Western forces depart, and to ensure Pakistan is on board with any eventual settlement. Military and diplomatic officials here and in Washington said the despite attempts to engage directly with Taliban leaders this year, they now expect that any significant progress will come only after 2014, once the bulk of Nato troops have left.
“I don’t see it happening in the next couple years,” said a senior coalition officer. He and a number of other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the effort to open talks.
The failure to broker meaningful talks with the Taliban underscores the fragility of the gains claimed during the surge of US troops ordered by President Barack Obama in 2009. The 30,000 extra troops won back territory held by the Taliban, but by nearly all estimates failed to deal a crippling blow.
Critics of the Obama administration say the US also weakened its own hand by agreeing to the 2014 deadline for its own involvement in combat operations, voluntarily ceding the prize the Taliban has been seeking for over a decade.
The US administration defends the deadline as crucial to persuading the Afghan government and military to assume full responsibility for the country.
‘Pullout sooner than expected’
The withdrawal of western forces from Afghanistan could come sooner than expected, the head of Nato has said. Nato secretary general comments come as he conceded that the recent Taliban strategy of ‘green on blue’ killings had been successful in undermining morale. In an interview, he responded to pressure for a faster withdrawal from Afghanistan by stating that the options were being studied.
New York Times