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Top U.S. Commander in Middle East Doubts Taliban Will Honor Peace Deal

U.S. soldiers patrol where Taliban and possibly al Qaeda have been sighted in Baghran Valley, Afghanistan, February 19, 2003. (David Swanson/Pool via Reuters)

Marine General Frank McKenzie, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, told the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he had no confidence that the Taliban would honor a peace agreement with the U.S. and the Afghan government.

“To date, Taliban attacks are higher than we believe are consistent with an idea to actually carry out this plan,” McKenzie said. “If they’re unable to draw down the current level of attacks, then the political leadership will be able to make decisions based on that.”

McKenzie also told the committee that the U.S. “has not developed military plans” to withdraw troops from Afghanistan within 14 months as called for in the peace agreement. The military does have a plan to reduce the amount of troops to 8,600 by summer 2020.

Representatives of the Taliban signed a peace accord with the U.S. at the end of February, with the Trump administration aiming to end the 19-year war in Afghanistan. However, Taliban fighters have continued to conduct attacks throughout the country. The organization has a loose central command that does not necessarily have full control over different Taliban cells, but McKenzie said the attacks indicated the Taliban are more widely dismissive of the peace agreement.

Earlier in March President Trump spoke with Taliban chief negotiator Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar by phone following reports of fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces.

Trump called the call “a very good talk,” and said both sides “have agreed there is no violence, don’t want violence.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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