July 24, 2019 —
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has traveled to Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul for consultations with U.S., NATO and Afghan officials.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford said he wants to ensure Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, the commander of the Resolute Support effort in Afghanistan, has all he needs.
The general said he wanted to take the pulse of operations in the country in advance of the national elections in September. The Afghans were holding a “rehearsal of concept” for the elections as he arrived.
“That is clearly a big priority for them, [and they are] making sure they have everything in place,” Dunford said in an interview with reporters traveling with him.
Government and coalition forces are also working to support the negotiations process as it takes place. U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been meeting with Taliban negotiators in Doha, Qatar, most recently earlier this month. He is in Kabul now, speaking with members of the Afghan government as he works to encourage inter-Afghan conversations between the Taliban and the government.
The negotiations have not changed the military mission in the country, Dunford said. “Day to day, the mission hasn’t changed for General Miller and the team, and they are still taking the fight to the Taliban and supporting the Afghan military,” he said.
Part of the problem is that the Taliban are not a monolithic entity, but rather a group of groups with different degrees of ideological purity and different goals. Some Taliban groups may work with the government. Others take a more hardline approach. Some want all foreign troops out immediately. Others will take a conditions-based approach.
The Afghan military is taking the fight to the Taliban to show them they cannot win on the battlefield. The NATO coalition is working to train the Afghan military and police.
After 18 years of war in Afghanistan, all sides want peace, but the devil is in the details, said a coalition official, speaking on background.
The United States also maintains a counterterrorism effort in the nation, targeting ISIS extremists and al-Qaida. ISIS has made gains in the eastern and northern parts of the country. The group is actively seeking recruits, and officials label it as a threat to external attacks in Europe and the United States.