Talks with new Afghan Taliban leader unlikely, says US military

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Taliban new leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada is seen in an undated photograph, posted on a Taliban twitter feed on May 25, 2016, and identified separately by several Taliban officials, who declined be named. Social Media via Reuters

A US military spokesman said on Wednesday that talks with the Afghan Taliban on ending the war in Afghanistan are unlikely anytime soon after the militant group chose a conservative religious scholar as its new leader.

It was the first time that an American military official has publicly voiced doubts that US President Barack Obama will realise a key foreign policy goal of bringing the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table after years of war before he leaves office in January.

Last week, the Afghan Taliban selected Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada as their new leader after the United States killed their former chief, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, in a drone strike in Pakistan.

“I don´t believe that we will see peace talks any time in the short-term with Mullah Haibatullah,” US Army Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, said in a media briefing.

US officials say that the hardline Akhundzada has little incentive to negotiate, with the Taliban making steady battlefield gains against Afghan security forces and the Obama administration still aiming to withdraw more US forces from Afghanistan.

The US State Department has publicly said it still supports Afghanistan in ending the conflict through a peace and reconciliation process with the Taliban. Akhundzada, however, has vowed, in an audio recording, that there will be no return to peace talks.

Cleveland said that while Akhundzada was “not really a military guy, and really not a money guy,” he should not be underestimated. The general added that while he was not optimistic about senior Taliban leaders joining negotiations, there is hope that lower level Taliban members would engage in talks.

The Quadrilateral Coordination Group, made up of officials from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China, has been trying to facilitate direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Last month, the group held its fifth meeting, but the Afghan government declined to send a delegation, and the Taliban have not attended any of the sessions.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The Afghan Army, using the US shoulder to fire, is nothing more than 'kiraye ke tatoo' and of the same class as the Iraqi soldiers. If the USA does not want to begin peace talks, the new Taliban leaders do not look that eager to come to negotiating table either. Leave Afghanistan first is the demand of the Taliban. Beating around he bush would not yield any results.

    • Taliban supporter neutral would like to see Afghanistan fail and the Taliban terrorists succeed… it is because of the support the Taliban gets from foolish brainwashed Islamist Pakistanis like neutral that allows them to keep fighting the elected government of Afghanistan… Taliban do not want peace talks… they would rather continue to suicide bomb innocent civilians and try to steal power from the government…

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