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US, Afghan leaders agree on peace push, but Taliban do not

Monday, March 5, 2018

Associated Press

WASHINGTON

Despite U.S. support, the Afghan government’s surprising new peace offer to the Taliban is immediately running into a wall. The insurgents show no sign of shifting from their demand that talks for a conflict-ending compromise take place with Washington, not Kabul.

The impasse is blocking a diplomatic path out of America’s longest-running war and could prove as fateful as fortunes on the battlefield.

The Trump administration says it’s escalating pressure on the Taliban to advance a negotiated solution to the fighting. But diplomacy is a distant second to military efforts right now, and the U.S. isn’t offering carrots of its own to persuade the insurgents to lay down their arms.

Laurel Miller, who until last June was a senior American diplomat for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the U.S. should be clearer about what it’s willing to negotiate on, including when it might start pulling forces from Afghanistan.

Such a timetable seems a remote prospect, and President Donald Trump has consistently railed against the idea of telling the enemy when the U.S. might leave. The U.S. involvement in the Afghan conflict is in its 17th year, and 10,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in 2017 alone. All sides are hung up on even the format for potential negotiations.