Top US Commander in Afghanistan Reveals Pessimism: ‘‘This is not going to be won militarily’

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The US seeks Pakistan’s assistance in achieving Afghan peace. PM Khan right after winning the elections in July said Pakistan would partner with the US for peace in Afghanistan, not war.

NEW YORK/ISLAMABAD, Nov 1, 2018: The new U.S. general leading the mission in Afghanistan gave a surprisingly candid interview this week on the situation in the war-torn country where the anti-terror war has cost the US more than $1.07 trillion.

Additionally, the cost of veterans’ medical and disability payments over the next 40 years will be more than $1 trillion.

And the ongoing war in Afghanistan has impacted Pakistan’s (US’ non-Nato ally until recently)  economy with more than $230 billion in economic losses, security and stability related issues notwithstanding.

In his first interview since taking command of NATO’s Resolute Support mission in September, Army Gen. Austin Miller’s thoughts seem to mirror the pessimism felt by the American people and independent observers’ views as the unwinnable war in Afghanistan treads past the 17-year mark.

“This is not going to be won militarily,” Miller told NBC News in an exclusive interview. “This is going to a political solution.”

“My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” he said. “So if you realize you can’t win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.”

Miller’s comments reflect several realities portrayed in the latest report from the leading U.S. government oversight agency on Afghanistan and dovetails what thought-leaders in Islamabad have been sounding its one-time anti-terror ally for some years now. Most vociferous in forwarding this argument was no other person than the newly elected Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan.

PM Khan then was dubbed ‘Taliban Khan’ for propelling “political not military solution” thought-process much to the chagrin of those who believed the Afghan war could be won through barrel of the gun. Historically, Afghanistan has been called ‘the graveyard of Empires’.

To reduce or neutralize Afghan Taliban footprint remains a big challenge militarily for the US and Nato forces.

As of July, the Afghan government controls or influences only 56 percent of the country’s 407 districts, according to The Military Times, but independent observers and analysts maintain it’s the other way around–Taliban control equal if not major areas.

Although the exact numbers are classified, Resolute Support also said that the average number of Afghan government force casualties from May to October 2018 is the highest it has ever been during similar periods.

About 32.4 percent of Afghan districts are contested according to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR’s quarterly report released Thursday — which means they are neither controlled by the Afghan government or the insurgency.

When Miller took over the war in early September, Afghan soldiers were already being killed and wounded at record numbers.

Miller told NBC News that he kicked off his tenure by pushing out a more aggressive policy of helping the Afghan military locate and defeat Taliban fighters. But in that new interview, Miller also acknowledged that Afghanistan requires a political, not military, solution to its woes.

Miller also narrowly escaped a Taliban attack unharmed on Oct. 18 in Kandahar city during a meeting with Kandahar’s governor. The Taliban had managed to turn one of the governor’s bodyguards to their side, who then initiated an insider attack at the conclusion of the meeting.

A key U.S.-backed Afghan warlord in the country’s volatile southern region, Kandahar police chief Gen. Abdul Raziq, was killed in the attack. Raziq was arguably the most important power broker in the region.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Smiley, the U.S. general in charge of Resolute Support’s advising mission in southern Afghanistan, and another unidentified civilian were also wounded in the attack.

The US seeks Pakistan’s assistance in achieving Afghan peace. PM Khan right after winning the elections in July said Pakistan would partner with the US for peace in Afghanistan, not war. And that’s the way things are said to be generally moving with more than two direct talks held between the US and Afghan Taliban in Doha, observers say.

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