00:05 GMT06 April 2020
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    “The Taliban are the victors,” says retired US Brig. Gen. Don Bolduc, who saw 69 of his soldiers killed in Afghanistan. “We just haven’t figured that out yet.”

    Absorbing the fact that the US has lost militarily in Afghanistan will be a "bitter pill" for the soldiers he fought with, Bolduc told Yahoo News Friday.

    "They did what they were asked, they did the right thing, and they watched their teammates get maimed, get killed, and because of the failure of our policymakers and our senior military leaders, they're going to have to swallow this pill," he said.

    The retired Special Forces officer says he has the dog tags of all 69 men who were lost during his five years in Afghanistan as a token to remind him of the "price for bad policy and strategy."

    Retired US Maj. Gen. Jeff Schloesser, who commanded the 101st Airborne Division in Afghanistan from early 2008 through mid-2009, tells the outlet, "I lost 184 soldiers there."

    Yahoo noted that in the event the US had accepted a Taliban surrender at the end of 2001, "maybe it would have concluded on our terms then," says Bolduc. "Now it's concluding on the Taliban's terms."

    "The Afghan military can't win without our airpower right over their shoulder and our guys standing next to them pushing them into the fight. They get their asses handed to them every time they fight the Taliban," said Bolduc.

    Afghan Air Force airstrikes reportedly killed three Taliban militants on Friday, however, including the movement's intelligence chief Mullah Ahmad, Sputnik reported. Ahmad was reported to be responsible for planning attacks in Afghanistan's Helmand province, TOLOnews reported, citing Afghan army officials.

    This week, Taliban and Afghan officials held peace talks in Moscow organized by an Afghan diaspora group in Russian capital. At the intra-Afghan consultations, Abdul Salam Hanafi, deputy chief of the Taliban's lone political office in Doha, Qatar, told Sputnik News, "Yes, the Americans told us that half of their troops will be withdrawn starting in the beginning of February until the end of April."

    Hanafi also reiterated the Taliban's rallying call that foreign forces should not be present in Afghanistan.

    The US has stepped up diplomatic engagement with the Taliban. Last week, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad confirmed that talks between the Taliban and US representatives in Qatar had resulted in progress. Notably, Khalilzad told the New York Times the dueling sides reached an agreement in principle on a framework for a peace deal.

    On Friday, Khalilzad said in comments at the US Institute of Peace the US "would like" for intra-Afghan discussions and a "ceasefire to happen ASAP," or as soon as possible. "Between now and July there is sufficient time, I believe, where we could reach an agreement," Khalilzad said when asked if a deal could be reached by the Afghan presidential election.


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