LJUBLJANA, SLOVENIA - It’s been a rocky week in Afghanistan peace talks, and NATO’s operational commander said allies “anticipate increased violence” on the ground as Afghan presidential elections inch closer.
U.S. Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), told a small group of reporters that Afghan elections “probably won’t be perfect,” but the 29-member North Atlantic alliance will “plan and execute to the ends of the Earth” to try to make the September 28 vote as safe as possible.
“There has been a lot of drama associated with Afghanistan, and at this very moment the signal we send to our NATO partners is the U.S. is committed, NATO is committed, and the mission still remains,” Wolters said on the sidelines of the latest NATO Military Committee in Chiefs of Defense Session.
British Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman of NATO’s military chiefs, added Saturday that there was “no division” on that commitment.
“We went into Afghanistan together, and any changes we will make together,” Peach said.
Peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban collapsed late last week. President Donald Trump had planned talks with Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani and Taliban leaders at the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, but then said that he decided to cancel them.
U.S. and Taliban negotiators had recently appeared to be close to a deal to end America’s longest war and start talks between the insurgent group and the Afghan government. However, Trump declared U.S.-Afghan peace talks “dead” after a car bombing in Kabul killed a dozen people, including an American soldier.
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The decision to end talks has increased concerns about escalating violence. Since then, the Taliban has threatened to disrupt the upcoming election, vowing that American troops “will suffer more than anyone else.”
Afghan President Ghani, who is running for re-election this month, appears emboldened by Trump’s cancellation of talks with the Taliban and has hardened his stance for engaging in future peace talks with them.
Ghani said this week that negotiations will be “impossible” until the Taliban declares a cease-fire.