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Freedom's Sentinel - 2020

In February 2020, the Taliban signed an agreement with the United States that could bring its nearly two-decade fight against the internationally recognized government to an end. The idea was that the United States would withdraw troops if the Taliban were to cut ties with terror groups. Then the Taliban entered negotiations with Afghanistan's government, and Trump said he intended to bring the US troops home by Christmas. Yet the security situation in Afghanistan was as fragile as ever. What Trump gained was an excuse for pulling out his troops, allowing Trump to keep his pledge to withdraw forces from a conflict his predecessors were unable to end — whatever that meant for the US's NATO allies. The withdrawal of troops would lead to more conflict in the region and possibly even permit the Taliban to return to power.

On 17 November 2021, Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced another reduction in U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, from the 4,000–5,000 reached in November, to 2,500 as of January 15, 2021. Acting Secretary Miller said President Donald Trump had made the decision in order to bring the war “to a successful and responsible conclusion” and to either bring service members home or reposition them.

At the new force level, U.S. military leaders said they can continue contributing to the NATO Resolute Support (RS) train, advise, and assist mission, and conducting the unilateral U.S. counterterrorism mission, while protecting U.S. forces and Afghan partners. The order will lead to fewer U.S. bases in the country, and to more advising being done at the corps level of the Afghan security forces and higher, with advising at the lower levels as needed.

Peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban continued amid sustained high levels of insurgent and extremist violence in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s participation in the talks provided them an opportunity to fulfill one commitment in the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban agreement — to discuss the date and modalities of a permanent and comprehensive cease-fire and complete an agreement over the political future of Afghanistan. However, several Taliban actions continued to belie other commitments in the agreement, including continued affiliation with terrorist groups, high levels of overall violence, and attacks on major population centers and on U.S. and Coalition personnel.

In an escalated effort to reduce the Taliban’s high level of violence over the last several months of 2020, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley met with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, on December 16. General Milley told the Associated Press, “The most important part of the discussions that I had with both the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan was the need for an immediate reduction in violence. ... Everything else hinges on that.”

After these meetings, General Austin Scott Miller, commander of U.S. and Coalition forces in Afghanistan, held a press conference and said, “I’ve been very consistent that the Taliban must reduce the violence. That’s one, because they’re the instigators of it, and that’ll bring the violence down all around. … My assessment is that it puts the peace process at risk … the higher the violence, the higher the risk. And I also believe that it’s an opportunity that should not be squandered by Afghans either here in Afghanistan or the Taliban.”

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Page last modified: 30-09-2021 18:44:28 ZULU