Senior US general reveals: Taliban not honoring deal

A top US general says the Taliban militant group in Afghanistan has so far failed to honor its commitments under a deal with the United States, contrasting other US officials who have indicated the agreement is moving ahead smoothly.

Marine General Frank McKenzie, the commander of the US Central Command, made the comment in an interview with Voice of America (VOA) a day after a meeting to discuss the Afghan peace process with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Tuesday.

“We expected to see a reduction in violence,” McKenzie said. “While the Taliban have been scrupulous about not attacking US or coalition forces, in fact, the violence against the Afghans is higher than it’s been in quite a while. It’s one of the highest, most violent periods of the war that we see to date.”

The US signed the deal with the Taliban in February. Under the agreement, the US is supposed to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, and the Taliban are supposed to refrain from attacking international occupying forces. The militants did not make a pledge to avoid attacking Afghan forces and civilians.

Official data shows Taliban bombings and other assaults have increased 70 percent since then. The United Nations (UN) has also warned of an alarming rise in violence against civilians in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government, which was not a party to the deal, has had reservations implementing a provision of the agreement that calls on Kabul to release Taliban prisoners in exchange for its security personnel taken captive by the militants. The government is required to increase many more prisoners than the Taliban, and Kabul does not wish to free some of those inmates who have been involved in highly violent attacks.

The comments by McKenzie, the US general, came only days after the US’s chief negotiator with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the deal was entering the “next phase,” indicating that implementation had been smooth.

Stressing that intra-Afghan dialog should start soon, McKenzie said, “That’s really the next critical thing that needs to happen in order to move forward because what’s going to happen is that the Afghans have got to talk to each to determine how they’re going to formulate a plan forward.”

McKenzie also said Washington needed to ensure that the Taliban would not host al-Qaida and Daesh terrorist groups in Afghanistan, which would potentially allow them to carry out attacks on the United States.

“Right now, it is simply unclear to me that the Taliban has taken any positive steps in that… in those areas,” he said.

The US and a number of its allies invaded Afghanistan to topple a Taliban regime in 2001, accusing it of harboring the al-Qaeda terrorist group. The militants now control or hold influence over more Afghan territory than at any point since that time.

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