A rare shift in US Afghanistan strategy after 17 years of war

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A rare shift in US Afghanistan strategy after 17 years of war

WASHINGTON - *Afghanistan’s High Peace Council (HPC) on Monday welcomed the news that US President Donald Trump directed top diplomats to seek direct talks with the Taliban and said any move for peace was a good move.*

This rare shift in US policy could hopefully bring an end to the 17 year old war in the country.

“We welcome any move which is in cooperation with the peace process efforts and which could speed up the process of peace talks under the leadership of the Afghans inside and outside the country,” said HPC spokesman Sayed Ehsan Tahiri.

The Taliban have long said they will only discuss peace with the US. But the US has remained adamant that talks must be conducted with the Afghan government.

This comes a day after Afghanistan’s capital Kabul suffered a suicide bombing that killed seven people.

New York Times reported that the shift to prioritize initial US talks with the Taliban over what has proved a futile "Afghan-led, Afghan-owned" process stems from a realization by both Afghan and American officials that Trump's new Afghanistan strategy is not making a fundamental difference in rolling back Taliban gains.

US officials said these talks will start without any preconditions and that the future of US and NATO forces will be discussed.

The UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan also welcomed the move.

“Such an important and welcome move,” UK ambassador to Afghanistan Nicolas Kay tweeted.

The apparent strategy shift, which was confirmed by several senior American and Afghan officials, is intended to bring the two positions closer and lead to broader, formal negotiations to end the long war.

According to the New York Times report, the government controls or influences 229 of Afghanistan’s 407 districts, and the Taliban 59. The remaining 119 districts are contested, according the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), which was created by Congress to monitor progress in the country.