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Retired US Soldier Who Met Taliban Negotiators Says 'Common Enemy' Of ISIS May Help End War
The retired Army colonel who was instrumental in driving recent direct talks between the United States and the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan says that "a common enemy" in ISIS may be what helps end the conflict.
"The fear of Afghanistan becoming the next Syria and that their battlefield gains are coming to a close suggests to them that this is a good time to negotiate," Christopher Kolenda recently told ABC News Australia.
In November, Kolenda and former diplomat Robin Raphel traveled to Doha, Qatar to meet with Taliban representatives. Now it seems that this opening in the nearly 17-year-old war could eventually yield some kind of negotiated settlement.
To be clear, Kolenda's initial trip was not explicitly sanctioned by the U.S. government, although he worked on previous negotiations under the Obama administration. However, Kolenda said recently it was rumored that U.S.-Taliban talks would continue in early September (Taliban officials met with Alice Wells, the State Department’s senior South Asia diplomat, in July, according to the New York Times).
In the ABC interview, Kolenda explained that present-day Afghanistan is much more complex than it had been in the past. Instead of the Taliban fighting the Afghan government and its U.S. backers, it now contends with an ISIS affiliate and others jockeying for power.
The concern of the Taliban, he said, was that Afghanistan could eventually experience a "descent into chaos" similar to that of the 1990s, with various warlords and militia groups locked in a constant battle for territorial control, or morph into a similar outlook as the Syrian civil war.
"That's why they are so interested in exploring a productive peace process," he said, adding that ISIS is a common enemy of the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the United States.
The Taliban has been fairly clear in its goals, which first and foremost has meant to end the occupation of Afghanistan by foreign troops. But as Kolenda explained, that position doesn't necessarily mean U.S. troops would be required to walk out of Afghanistan immediately with their heads down.
Here's what he told Voice of America:
"There’s a lot of nuance here that I think is very important. What they’ve said consistently, and this goes back to 2010, is that if a government formed after a political settlement, which presumably would include Taliban leaders, decides that they would like international troops to train Afghan security forces, then that’s a decision that a legitimate, inclusive government can take.
Now the corollary to that, which is also very important, is that if a government, post-political settlement, said, ‘We don’t want foreign troops here at all,’ then there would be an expectation that foreign countries would respect that decision and their foreign troops would go.
So I think it’s really important to understand this more holistic point of view. Their No. 1 reason for war — their casus belli, if you will — is the occupation. So they’re not going to just simply say, ‘We’re OK with U.S. combat troops running around Afghanistan.’ Because that’s what they’re fighting to prevent, from their point of view."
A memo circulating over the weekend warning of a "possible imminent attack" against U.S. soldiers in Germany was investigated by Army officials, who found there to not be a serious threat after all.
The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.
Comedian Jon Stewart has joined forces with veterans groups to make sure service members who have been sickened by toxins from burn pits get the medical care they need, according to the Military Officers Association of America.
"Quite frankly, this is not just about burn pits — it's about the way we go to war as a country," Stewart said during his Jan. 17 visit to Washington, D.C. "We always have money to make war. We need to always have money to take care of what happens to people who are selfless enough, patriotic enough, to wage those wars on our behalf."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Editor's Note: A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of Angry Staff Officer
This morning, the Virginia state capitol in Richmond saw dozens of armed men gathering to demonstrate their support for the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution – the right to bear arms. These men were not merely bearing arms, however; they were fully accoutered in the trappings of what one would call a paramilitary group: helmets, vests, ammunition pouches, camouflage clothing, and other "tactical" necessities, the majority of which are neither tactical nor necessary. Their weapons, too, are bedecked with all sorts of accessories, and are also in the paramilitary lane. Rather than carry rifles or shotguns that one would use for hunting, they instead carry semi-automatic "military grade" weapons, to merely prove that they can.
This is not an uncommon sight in America. Nor has it ever been. Armed groups of angry men have a long and uncomfortable history in the United States. On very rare occasions, these irregulars have done some good against corrupt, power-hungry, and abusive county governments. For the most part, however, they bode no good.
How We Found Out explores recent reporting from Task & Purpose, answering questions about how we sourced our stories, what challenges we faced, and offers a behind-the-scenes look at how we cover issues impacting the military and veterans community.
Following a string of news reports on private Facebook group called Marines United, where current and former Marines shared nude photos of their fellow service members, the Corps launched an internal investigation to determine if the incident was indicative of a larger problem facing the military's smallest branch.
In December 2019, Task & Purpose published a feature story written by our editor in chief, Paul Szoldra, which drew from the internal review. In the article, Szoldra detailed the findings of that investigation, which included first-hand accounts from male and female Marines.
Task & Purpose spoke with Szoldra to discuss how he got his hands on the investigation, how he made sense of the more than 100 pages of anecdotes and personal testimony, and asked what, if anything, the Marine Corps may do to correct the problem.
This is the fourth installment in the recurring column How We Found Out.