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    Afghanistan Needs a Regionally Coordinated Approach – Analyst

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    Both Republicans and Democrats have voiced their concerns about President Trump’s open-ended military commitment to Afghanistan, with lawmakers estimating that it will cost the US taxpayer above $45 billion in 2018 alone. Sputnik spoke to Imtiaz Gul, author of the book ‘The Unholy Nexus: Pak-Afghan Relations.’

    Sputnik: How likely is it that the Trump administration, under its current strategy, will achieve its stated objective and get the Taliban to the table for peace talks?

    Imtiaz Gul: Under the current strategy, the likelihood for getting the Taliban to the negotiations' table looks very difficult because President Trump has publicly vowed to continue in trying to defeat the Taliban militarily and this is quite a strange position that Trump has taken in view of the defeats that the Afghan army and the foreign forces led by the United Sates have suffered all these years. It's quite strange listening to them that they are basically putting more bets on a military solution rather than a negotiated settlement of the problem.

    READ MORE: 'Roaming Freely': Afghanistan Provides Proof Daesh, Taliban Trained in Pakistan

    Sputnik: How much territory does the Taliban now control? Some reports are saying that it has more territory under its sway than any time since the 2001 US-led invasion — is that an accurate assessment do you think?

    Imtiaz Gul: Well it's difficult to say as to how much territory they really controlled back in 2001. However the reality today is that, according to the BBC, the Taliban directly or indirectly control about seventy percent of the Afghan territory, whereas the US official estimated reckon that around forty two to forty three percent of the territory is either directly controlled by the Taliban or contested by them, that means it's under their indirect influence.

    READ MORE: ‘The Gloves Are Off': B-52 Sets Record for Smart Bombs Dropped on Taliban

    Sputnik: So what exactly do you think the Trump administration needs to do to defeat them? The US has recently adopted a more regional approach where pressure is put in countries like Pakistan which stands accused of aiding the Taliban — is this the answer to Afghanistan's troubles do you think?

    Imtiaz Gul: I think this is a very erroneous single focus on Pakistan. The other strategic neighbour of Afghanistan is Iran, and the United States is at cross purposes with Iran, as well as Russia and it also doesn't want China to be around. So, it's not just about Pakistan but about the regional countries joining hands to persuade the Taliban into negotiations with the Kabul administration.

    However, the administration in Kabul, in the words of the Taliban itself, is "helpless." It is simply helpless vis a vis the United States, which forced the bill of the entire government the Afghan national defence forces. The Taliban openly said in response to the January 1st Tweet by president Trump that this Tweet basically exposed and reconfirmed the position that the Taliban had taken, and that was that the actual decision maker about the future of Afghanistan is the United States and not the Afghan government and hence they continue to demand direct negotiations with the United States.

    I think there needs to be a step back from the military option and to try pressuring negotiations through a regionally coordinated approach because it's not just about one country anymore. There are too many fingers in the pie, including those of India and Iran. Every country is trying to secure its flanks. There's the threat of religious radicalism, particularly Daesh, which everyone agrees represents a much bigger threat than the Taliban or a-Qaeda. So it needs to be a regionally coordinated approach rather than something being imposed from outside as the American president would want.

    The views and opinions expressed by Imtiaz Gul are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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    al-Qaeda, Taliban, Donald Trump, United States, Afghanistan
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