The United States will need to keep counterterrorism forces in Afghanistan until there is no insurgency left in the country, the top US general said on Wednesday, suggesting a far longer military presence even after more than 17 years of war.
“I think we will need to maintain a counterterrorism presence as long as an insurgency continues in Afghanistan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said during a congressional hearing.
This comes as the US in the past nine months started peace talks with the Taliban about withdrawal of US forces.
In the last seven days, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and some key members of the Taliban are holding talks on Afghan peace in Doha, however, the two sides so far have not reached a final deal on issues under debate which are troop withdrawal, counterterrorism assurances, a ceasefire and intra-Afghan dialogue.
The Taliban has said the group will talk about a ceasefire once an agreement is reached with the US on a timeframe for the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan and on counterterrorism assurances. But the US insists that nothing will be agreed until an agreement on the four key issues.
In a tweet on the occasion of Ramadhan on Tuesday, Khalilzad said Afghans have suffered war’s catastrophic impact for too long and that he hopes all Afghans take this season to reflect, forgive, and renew faith and commitment to end violence and embrace peace.
As the peace efforts are gaining momentum despite an increase in violence across the country, a senior member of the Reconciliation Leadership Council called on government to give priority to the formation of the negotiating team as according to him, a limited time has remained for possible talks with the Taliban.
On Wednesday, the Taliban's attack on an international aid organization in Kabul which continued for six hours was labelled a crime against civilians as it was condemned by the government, the United Nations and the US Embassy in Afghanistan.
President Ashraf Ghani in a statement said the Taliban once again showed they are against the will of the Afghan people, which was raised by 3,200 delegates at the grand council.
Ghani said the Taliban attack is an "unforgivable crime".
The Reconciliation Leadership Council which was formed by President Ghani earlier in April is comprised of prominent politicians and former Jihadi leaders who have been given the authority to decide on the formation of the negotiating team which will represent the Afghan society in talks with the Taliban.
A grand council of more than 3,000 delegates last week demanded in a resolution the formation of a 50-member negotiating team, but critics suggest a team with fewer members.