Top US general claims Afghanistan peace talks are right around the corner

news
U.S. Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley addresses reporters during a media briefing at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., October 11, 2019. (REUTERS/Erin Scott)

KABUL (Reuters) - The top U.S. general said on Wednesday that the chances of a successful outcome from peace talks on ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan were higher than before and could happen in the "near term."

Earlier this month the Afghan Taliban released American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.

The chances of successful peace talks are complicated by the Taliban's refusal to engage with what they call an "illegitimate" U.S.-backed government in Kabul.


A messy political situation in Afghanistan and continued violence only make the situation more difficult.

Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday, his first trip to the country since taking the top job in September.

"I think the chances of a positive outcome through negotiations is higher than I have seen, and I've been deeply involved in Afghanistan for 18 years," Milley told reporters.

"With a bit of luck, we'll have successful negotiations in the near term, not too distant future," Milley said.

He added that work remained to actually see a positive outcome.

"A lot of time in situations like this, two steps forward one step back," he said.

Over the past 18 years, senior American military leaders and diplomats have routinely talked about their optimism and how the war has turned a corner, but the Taliban continue to control large parts of the country.

Talks between the Taliban and the United States aimed at ending the war collapsed in September after President Donald Trump called off what he described as a planned meeting at the U.S. Camp David presidential retreat.

Before the talks were broken off, both sides had said they were close to a deal.

Two Taliban leaders told Reuters that the group had again been holding meetings with senior U.S. officials in Doha since this weekend, saying they could soon resume the peace process.

"Our leaders started unofficial meetings with senior U.S. officials in Doha and working on a plan how to resume the peace process," one of the Taliban leaders said.

Milley said negotiations were "ongoing."

Last month the U.S. military said that it had quietly reduced the number of troops by about 2,000, to bring the total number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan to between 12,000 and 13,000.

The Pentagon has said it can go down to 8,600 troops and still carry out a counter-terrorism mission.

Milley said no decisions had been made on troop reductions and there were several options, including going down to 8,600.

The FBI is treating the recent shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, as a terrorist attack, several media outlets reported on Sunday.

"We work with the presumption that this was an act of terrorism," USA Today quoted FBI Agent Rachel Rojas as saying at a news conference.

Read More Show Less

WASHINGTON/SEOUL (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un risks losing "everything" if he resumes hostility and his country must denuclearize, after the North said it had carried out a "successful test of great significance."

"Kim Jong Un is too smart and has far too much to lose, everything actually, if he acts in a hostile way. He signed a strong Denuclearization Agreement with me in Singapore," Trump said on Twitter, referring to his first summit with Kim in Singapore in 2018.

"He does not want to void his special relationship with the President of the United States or interfere with the U.S. Presidential Election in November," he said.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Vaughan Dill/Released)

The three sailors whose lives were cut short by a gunman at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, on Friday "showed exceptional heroism and bravery in the face of evil," said base commander Navy Capt. Tim Kinsella.

Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham, and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters were killed in the shooting, the Navy has announced.

Read More Show Less

The Pentagon has a credibility problem that is the result of the White House's scorched earth policy against any criticism. As a result, all statements from senior leaders are suspect.

We're beyond the point of defense officials being unable to say for certain whether a dog is a good boy or girl. Now we're at the point where the Pentagon has spent three days trying to knock down a Wall Street Journal story about possible deployments to the Middle East, and they've failed to persuade either the press or Congress.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the United States was considering deploying up to 14,000 troops to the Middle East to thwart any potential Iranian attacks. The story made clear that President Trump could ultimately decide to send a smaller number of service members, but defense officials have become fixated on the number 14,000 as if it were the only option on the table.

Read More Show Less

This article originally appeared on Business Insider.

SIMI VALLEY, Calif. – Gen. David Berger, the US Marine Corps commandant, suggested the concerns surrounding a service members' use of questionable Chinese-owned apps like TikTok should be directed against the military's leadership, rather than the individual troops.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California, on Saturday morning, Berger said the younger generation of troops had a "clearer view" of the technology "than most people give them credit for."

"That said, I'd give us a 'C-minus' or a 'D' in educating the force on the threat of even technology," Berger said. "Because they view it as two pieces of gear, 'I don't see what the big deal is.'"

Read More Show Less