No need to change Afghanistan war plan, says top US commander

No need to change Afghanistan war plan, says top US commander
The 17-year war in Afghanistan is the US' longest war and appears poised to drag on.
2 min read
09 August, 2018
Gen. Joseph Votel at a committee hearing on Capitol Hill [Getty]

The top US commander in the Middle East said he doesn't expect any major changes to the US strategy to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan, after the Trump administration unveiled a new approach a year ago.  

Gen. Joseph Votel told reporters the US will continue to use military, social and political pressure to force the Taliban to the peace table. 

Incoming Afghanistan commander Army Gen. Scott Miller will make his own assessment of the war's progress, Votel said, but while he may make tactical changes on the ground fight, "I don't think that that will result in a relook at the strategy of the overall approach here".

Speaking to Pentagon reporters on Wednesday, Votel said Miller is likely to take a close look at the Afghans' continued use of checkpoints in remote regions, where their forces are often more vulnerable to Taliban attack. 

Votel also said the reconciliation plan doesn't extend to Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.

"While we apply military pressure against the Taliban to bring them to the table of reconciliation, we harbor no illusion about reconciliation with ISIS-K," said Votel, using the acronym for the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan. "Our mission there is to destroy that organisation".

Last week several hundred fighters of the Islamic State affiliate surrendered to Taliban forces in the northern province of Jawzjan. 

The Taliban and IS are both battling to overthrow the Western-backed government and impose a harsh form of Islamic rule, but are fiercely divided over leadership, ideology and tactics.

The Islamic State has been able to conduct a number of high-profile, deadly attacks across Afghanistan, often targeting Afghan security forces and the country's Shia minority. 

In July, the UN released a report showing a record number of Afghan civilians killed in the first six months of 2018, with militant attacks and suicide bombs the leading causes of death.

The record death toll came despite an unprecedented albeit brief ceasefire by Afghan security forces and the Taliban during Ramadan that was largely respected by both sides.

Critics of the US' longest-running war point out the Taliban is active in more than two-thirds of Afghan territory, despite years of Washington battling the group. 

Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab