KABUL: US top commander Gen. Scott Miller says that he is “very consistent” that the Taliban must reduce the violence in Afghanistan as it could put the ongoing Afghan peace process at risk.
“Because they’re (Taliban) the instigators of it (violence), and that’ll bring the violence down all around. But if we don’t, my assessment is that it puts the peace process at risk and the higher the violence, the higher the risk. And I also believe that this opportunity for peace should not be squandered,” Mr. Miller said recently.
U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson also echoed Gen. Miller: It’s an unbearable burden on the Afghan armed forces, and it’s an unbearable burden for Afghan society, including the raging attacks in urban areas, assassinations, kidnappings market bombings and other activities like that, not all of which may be Taliban carried out, but the cumulative effect of that high level of losses is unraveling the situation.
GEN Miller: The other thing, and I was very direct to the Taliban about this—the infrastructure damage is, I mean, it’s sad. The infrastructure is something that affects the Afghan people. And you look at it and it’s very deliberate infrastructure damage separate from fighting. And it’s when you start taking Highway 1 and destroying Highway 1, that’s for the people. And so they are using it for military purposes. I said, who’s going to come in and pay for that? Is your expectation the international community buy it back again, but then you get fighting and then even more infrastructure damage results, whether it’s schools, clinics and the rest. And I’ve hit the Taliban hard on that.
U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson: And it also adds to the isolation of these provincial centers like Lashkar Gah. You can’t get there, leaving aside the matter of armed forces movements, you can’t get through [inaudible].
Reporter: But aside from the military utility of doing that sort of thing, I mean, given that peace negotiations are sort of started, why does it make sense? I mean, is there another motive there?
GEN Miller: I think what the ambassador just stated was it’s when you have a military activity taking place and military commanders on the ground are now starting to do things that are not conducive with peace talks and reconstruction and stability. And so, as you see the infrastructure damage, you recognize that’s not the right path.
Reporter: Is this an effort to essentially by some groups down there for some sort of elements down there to trying to spoil the peace process? Or is this an effort to create leverage for the peace process?
GEN Miller: Clearly, the Taliban use violence as leverage. It’s a tool they’ve used for a long time and it’s one they’re loathe to abandon. We press them pretty hard on violence. You know, we have been pressing them since 1 March 2020.
Reporter: You’re seeing a rise in the infrastructure damage. Can you also provide a quick assessment about the ANDSF, generally?
GEN Miller: Yeah, I’ve been asked this question before. The Afghan security forces are absolutely essential to the peace process. They have to hold. They have to hold terrain. They have to protect the people. We talk about that routinely. They certainly have our support to build sustainable security institutions. But they have to hold. We are making sure they know we’re still there from an air support standpoint and able to help and protect them during combat operations.