US CENTCOM Chief: Taliban Trying To Gain Advantage Through Violence

The Taliban’s violence may put the entire region on a “dangerous path” as they try to use it as a bargaining tactic, General France McKenzie of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) told NPR’s Morning Edition on Friday.

When asked about the advantages of the increase in Taliban violence by the radio show’s host, McKenzie agreed with the comment that the group may be using it to gain some kind of advantage.

“I think they are, actually. And I don’t think that’s going to be helpful because that’s a very fine line.”

He also warned that this tactic has limited utility as “the government of Afghanistan, they’re not going to take their people being killed in this manner without ultimately being forced to respond.”

McKenzie’s spent the last two week visiting 10 countries in the Middle East, Central and South Asia, where he even met President Ashraf Ghani in Afghanistan during his visit last week.

The top U.S. general, called this a “dangerous path” for the region, if the violence continued.

“We have a narrow path to go forward,” he said, adding, “I think this path is still the only way to get to a negotiated peaceful end to the situation there.”

He said the government of Afghanistan was “trying to do everything it can” on its part to prepare for the intra-Afghan talks and negotiations with the Taliban.

This included the release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoner, which they are working on. “They need to finish that release. That will be an important step,” the general noted.

He also pointed that the Taliban has yet to release its 1,000 prisoners before peace negotiations are considered.

“You know, as part of that, the level of violence is still too high,” McKenzie said, pointing that while the Taliban have “scrupulously” avoided attacking U.S. forces as part of the Doha Agreement, violence against Afghan forces are “at far too high a level.”

When talking about Russia’s historic involvement with the Taliban, McKenzie said it continued when asked if they had been supplying arms to the militants.

“So I think they have provided moral support to them. I think it’s possible they have provided other support as well.”

However, he said the department is still investigating the bounty claims and called it an “open issue” they continue to look at.

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