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U.S. Stuck in Political, Military Stalemate in Afghanistan: Former U.S. Envoy

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(Last Updated On: August 28, 2017)

The United States is stuck in a political and military stalemate in Afghanistan, and it is unclear whether President Donald Trump’s new strategy in the war-torn country will resolve it, a former U.S. envoy to NATO said, ABC News reported.

“If our goal is stalemate, we’ve achieved it,” former NATO Ambassador Douglas Lute told ABC News in an interview that also included Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and the United Nations under U.S. President George W. Bush.

Lute was responding to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments Tuesday about the administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan, when he said, “This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand: You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.”

“We have not only a stalemate on the security situation, but a threefold stalemate on the political front,” said Lute, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as an adviser on Afghan policy under both President Bush and President Obama.

 “We have a political stalemate in Kabul. We have a political stalemate in the region, and we have a political stalemate with regards to trying to enter talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.”

Khalilzad, however, believes the stalemate “has been shifting in favor of the Taliban in recent weeks and months.”

“They have been gaining ground,” he said. “So why should they negotiate for peace if they think they’re going to win the war?”

But Khalilzad said an important change in President Trump’s new strategy is its “sharp focus” on Pakistan, particularly its assistance to U.S. enemies in the region.

“This has been in my judgment the single most important factor, the Pakistan problem, for prolonging the war,” Khalilzad said, adding that he believes the United States has leverage over the country to Afghanistan’s south and west.

“We have the leverage of cutting off assistance,” he said. “We have the leverage of putting … individuals who support groups such as the Taliban on a blacklist,” he added.

Lute was less sanguine. “I’m actually skeptical that we have sufficient leverage against Pakistan to change their strategic calculus,” he said.

“We don’t have to accept [Pakistan’s] perspective, but understanding it is the start point,” Lute said. “And that start point begins with their view that their tension, that their competition with India is existential, and everything flows through that lens.”

Lute and Khalilzad agreed that more details are needed to fully assess Trump’s Afghanistan strategy.

“We heard a lot about what it is we want to accomplish,” Lute said. “We heard very little on how.”

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Afghan MMA fighter defeats his American opponent

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2020)

Nasrat Haqparast, an Afghan MMA fighter, defeated his American opponent Alex Munoz in a UFC fight in the United States.

The match was held Saturday in Las Vegas, US.

Haqparast managed to win all three rounds on every scorecard against his rival.

By defeating Alex Munoz, the Afghan fighter has picked up his 12th win in the UFC rings.

Haqparast is the second Afghan who is fighting in the UFC after Siyar Bahadurzada.

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Seven policemen killed in Ghazni Humvee bomb explosion

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2020)

At least seven policemen were killed and 16 others wounded in a vehicle bomb explosion in central Ghazni province.

Wahidullah Jumazada, a spokesman for the provincial governor told Ariana News that an explosive-laden Humvee was detonated at the Public Protection Battalion of Ghazni on Saturday evening.

The incident took place in the Kotal-e-Rawza area, Jumazada said, adding that several gunmen engaged in a gunbattle with Afghan forces following the explosion.

Officials at a Ghazni hospital said so far seven bodies and 14 wounded individuals had been taken to the hospital.

Local officials have not yet provided further details. 

No group or individual including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

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Afghanistan to release 400 ‘hard-core’ prisoners to start peace talks

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(Last Updated On: August 9, 2020)

The Loya Jirga, or grand council, on Sunday officially agreed to release 400 Taliban prisoners so as to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks. 

The Jirga, made up of 3,200 tribal elders, community leaders and politicians, announced their decision on the third and final day of the gathering. 

“In order to remove an obstacle, allow the start of the peace process and an end of bloodshed, the Loya Jirga approves the release of 400 Taliban,” the assembly said in a resolution.

Within minutes, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said, “Today, I will sign the release order of these 400 prisoners.”

In his closing speech Ghani said: “We have the capacity for peace, and most importantly, we have the moral courage that war is not the solution.”

He said both the people and government of Afghanistan accept the Taliban as a reality but it was now up to the Taliban to prove whether they accept the diversity and unity of Afghanistan or not.

“The Loya Jirga of Afghanistan made history today. The Afghan Loya Jirga wants to end the last 40 years” of war, he said. 

“Great courage is not in war, great courage is in peace,” he added. 

He also said the decision made collectively by the delegates proved it was a sign of the country’s national unity and the people’s belief in the constitution and system of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The release of the 400 “hard-core” Taliban prisoners has been a stumbling block in the peace talks process over the past few months, following the Doha agreement signed between the US and the Taliban. 

In accordance with the agreement, the Afghan government had to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. Over 4,600 have been released so far but the final 400, who were listed by the Taliban, has been a sticking point. 

Last week Ghani called for a Loya Jirga to make the decision. 

According to Reuters, talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government will start in Doha this week.

However, Ghani has said that the Taliban must agree to a complete ceasefire before talks can start. 

This latest move comes amid mounting pressure from the United States for Afghanistan and the Taliban to work out a peace deal. 

Ahead of November US elections, Trump is determined to fulfill a major campaign promise of ending America’s longest war.

The drawdown of troops is part of the US’s plan and will bring the number of US troops to “a number less than 5,000” by the end of November, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview broadcast on Saturday.

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