In Afghanistan, a War with No Plan for Peace Continues

An Afghan soldier stands guard during a gathering in Gushta district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul. Afghan forces are due to take over security duty from 2014. (Photograph: Rahmat Gul/AP)

In Afghanistan, a War with No Plan for Peace Continues

Reports indicate US has given up on serious peace talks as NATO looks for early exit

A series of confessions this week from top US and NATO officials leave dim hopes for a negotiated peace settlement in Afghanistan as western nations head for the exit doors with no plans in place for a stable transition to Afghan rule after 2014.

The New York Timesreports Tuesday that both "American generals and civilian officials acknowledge that they have all but written of" the idea of peace talks with the Taliban.

"I don't see it happening in the next couple years," said a senior coalition officer who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity.

"It's a very resilient enemy, and I'm not going to tell you it's not," the officer said. "It will be a constant battle, and it will be for years."

The Times report follows on the heals of a Guardianexclusive interview on Monday with NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who said that the spate of internal so-called "green on blue" killings had sapped the morale of the European alliance and that an earlier than expected withdrawal is under consideration.

"There's no doubt insider attacks have undermined trust and confidence, absolutely," Rasmussen told the Guardian. "From now until the end of 2014 you may see adaptation of our presence. Our troops can redeploy, take on other tasks, or even withdraw, or we can reduce the number of foreign troops."

At the beginning of the week, the top US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, toldCBS' 60 Minutes that Taliban forces were making a "strong comeback" in Afghanistan and that the recent insider killings had made him "mad as hell."But, he said when prompted, the American people should expect to see more of this in the future.

NATO's Rasmussen also confirmed Allen's suspicion that the insider attacks were not aberrations, but a coordinated strategy by the Taliban and one they now know has been a tactical success.

"It's safe to say that a significant part of the insider attacks are due to Taliban tactics," he said.

Such successful infiltration of the Afghan security forces deeply undercuts the US/NATO strategy to build a reliable military capacity for the ruling Karzai government, an essential ingredient, as was often repeated by US strategists and officials, for the planned drawdown of troops by 2014.

And the New York Times reports that the "failure to broker meaningful talks with the Taliban underscores the fragility of the military gains claimed during the surge of American troops ordered by President Obama in 2009." Designed to "batter" the enemy into peace talks, as the Times put it, the military pressure exerted by the US was largely absorbed by the Taliban forces.

"With the end of this year's fighting season, the Taliban have weathered the biggest push the American-led coalition is going to make against them," the report said.

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