Taliban ‘open letter’ to Trump urges US to leave Afghanistan

The Afghan government was assessed by the US military to control or influence just 59.7 per cent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts as of Feb 20, a nearly 11 percentage-point decrease from the same time in 2016

The Afghan Taliban in an “open letter” to President Donald Trump, reiterated their calls for America to leave Afghanistan after 16 years of war.

In a 1600 words long note in English that was sent to journalists on Tuesday by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid report AP, the insurgents said that Trump had recognized the errors of his predecessors by seeking a review of the US strategy for Afghanistan.

Mujahid said Trump should not hand control of the US Afghan policy to the military but rather, announce the withdrawal of US forces and not an increase in troops as the Trump administration has planned.

The note also says a US withdrawal would “truly deliver American troops from harm’s way” and bring about “an end to an inherited war.”

US Defense Secretary James Mattis in July said that the Trump administration’s new strategy for Afghanistan would have a regional context, including a Pakistan angle. The deployment is therefore on the side-burner amid broader strategy questions, including how to engage regional powers in an effort to stabilize Afghanistan – Pakistan seeks political solution.

He said that while media speculations about the Trump administration sending close to 5,000 additional troops to Afghanistan “may turn out to be right”, the new strategy “also involves, perhaps, changing somewhat what the troops on the ground are doing right now”.

Some US officials have questioned the benefit of sending more troops to Afghanistan because any politically palatable number would not be enough to turn the tide, much less create stability and security.

To date, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed and more than 17,000 wounded since the war began in 2001 after the 9/11 incident and is costing taxpayers almost $4 million an hour according to an estimate.

Any increase of several thousand troops would leave American forces in Afghanistan well below their 2011 peak of more than 100,000 troops.

The United States now has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan.

What is evident according to various reports is that the Afghan government has struggled to halt Taliban advances on its own and is now also battling an Islamic State affiliate that has carved out a foothold mostly in eastern Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

The Afghan government was assessed by the US military to control or influence just 59.7 per cent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts as of Feb 20, a nearly 11 percentage-point decrease from the same time in 2016, according to data released by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

The letter also offered a long list of complaints against Afghanistan’s U.S.-orchestrated unity government and referenced a newly formed coalition of disgruntled warlords formed at a meeting last month in Turkey as an opposition bloc to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Ghani has been under pressure from critics who have described him as divisive and accused him of stoking ethnic rivalries.

The opposition bloc includes Uzbek warlord and Afghanistan’s first vice president, Rashid Dostum, who has been criticized by the U.S. for human rights abuses and is currently living in Turkey. Atta Mohammed Noor, a Tajik warlord and governor of northern Balkh province and Mohammed Mohaqiq, an ethnic Hazara lawmaker are also in the bloc.

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