President Trump last week spoke on the phone with Taliban leaders who are on America’s secret ‘kill or capture’ list, it has been reported.
(Be sure to read my comments below this article, MH)
Tue, 10 Mar 2020 18:29 UTC
National security officials are said to be concerned over what they said is an unprecedented breach of protocol by the president, who was chatting with individuals wanted by his own Defense Department.
‘It’s ground-shaking that the president spoke to individuals on a target list,’ a senior Pentagon official told The Daily Beast.
‘It was a big give from our side, towards an adversary that traditionally has never held up their side of the bargain in numerous other attempts towards de-escalation and peace.
‘We made a group that lacks absolute operational control over their forces a legitimate player on the world stage.’
According to officials, Trump spoke on the phone with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Baradar, who was once held prisoner in Pakistan, is a co-founder of the Taliban and the head of its political bureau in Qatar.
‘We had a very good conversation with the leader of the Taliban today, and they’re looking to get this ended, and we’re looking to get it ended,’ Trump said last week when asked about the phone call.
‘I think we all have a very common interest…We had, actually, a very good talk with the leader of the Taliban.’
Another Taliban official who reportedly listened in on the call is Amir Khan Muttaqi.
In July 2018, Muttaqi was wounded in an airstrike in the Ghazni province of Afghanistan.
Muttaqi and Baradar are two names included on the Joint Prioritized Effects Lists, a so-called ‘kill/capture’ list of individuals wanted by the US-led force in Afghanistan.
The list includes Taliban and al-Qaeda bomb makers, commanders, financiers, people who coordinate weapons transports, and even public relations people.
The identities of those who are on the list are determined by the Central Intelligence Agency as well as the US military’s elite Joint Special Operations Command.
Intelligence analysts receive information about a particular Taliban or al-Qaeda figure whose name is on the list.
If the information is credible, the military would then plan operations designed to either capture or kill them.
The phone conversation is the latest indication that there is a growing gap between the president’s apparent eagerness to remove US forces from Afghanistan and the military’s distrust of the Taliban.
The top US commander for the Middle East painted a grim picture on Tuesday of the peace process with the Taliban in Afghanistan, saying the current level of violence is higher than allowed in the plan and that he will recommend against full withdrawal if that continues.
Marine General Frank McKenzie told the House Armed Services Committee that he has plans to cut the number of troops to 8,600 by the summer, but so far the US ‘has not developed military plans’ for the full withdrawal in 14 months that is called for in the peace plan signed on February 29.
‘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.’
He added that he has no confidence the group will honor its commitments, but said his optimism or pessimism about the future doesn’t matter because any decisions will be based on facts and what happens on the ground.
Trump insisted the group wants to cease violence.
Asked if he believes the Afghan government will be capable of defending itself by the time of a complete US troop withdrawal, he said he didn’t know, but noted, ‘eventually, countries have to take care of themselves.’
The Pentagon’s top spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, also offered a bit more optimism on Tuesday, saying Defense Secretary Mark Esper believes the US-Taliban deal is holding up, despite some instances of violence, some of which is being committed by the Islamic State group´s Afghanistan affiliate.
American forces on Monday started pulling out of two bases in Afghanistan, a US official said on Tuesday, the day peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban were due to start despite widespread violence and a political crisis.
The US is keen to end its longest-ever conflict, and under the terms of a deal signed in Doha last month has said all foreign forces will quit Afghanistan within 14 months – provided the Taliban stick to their security commitments.
Under the accord, the US is initially supposed to cut its troop presence from about 12,000 currently to 8,600 by mid-July, and close five of its roughly 20 bases across the country.
Troops have started leaving one base in Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province in the south, and another base in Herat in the east, a US official told AFP on the condition of anonymity.
Even with the drawdown, US forces retain ‘all the military means and authorities to accomplish our objectives,’ Colonel Sonny Leggett, spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan, said Monday, referring to American counterterrorism operations and support for Afghan forces.
Helmand, which along with neighbouring Kandahar province is considered a Taliban stronghold, is where US and British forces fought some of the bloodiest campaigns of the 18-year war.
Martin comments: So, Trump continues his successful method of avoiding “shock and awe” and potentially saving thousands of innocent lives. He achieves this by simply talking to America’s enemies. Old piece of advice: “Know thine enemy”. Here’s another: “keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer”. Trump’s business-based approach to politics may not work at all levels, but it seems to work when avoiding open conflict (much to the irritation of the Bloodline Elite). Profit from Trade Not War.