The country’s top military leaders on Wednesday said they would not rule out future partnerships with the Taliban
Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that collaboration with the Taliban, who were the enemy during the 20-year Afghan war, was “possible” to battle the Islamic State Khorasan, also known as ISIS-K, according to a transcript of a media briefing.
The group claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 attack that killed 13 U.S. service members at Kabul airport.
More than 2,400 Americans died in the 20-year war in Afghanistan.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin noted at the briefing that operational coordination between U.S. forces and ruthless Taliban fighters that took place while the United States was evacuating people from Kabul was not necessarily a harbinger of a future partnership.
“Well, first of all, let me applaud the initiative of our commanders on — on the ground who would stop at nothing to accomplish the mission that they were — they were provided of evacuating as many American citizens, third-country nationals and [Special Immigrant Visa] applicants as possible. We were focused on — we were working with the Taliban on a very narrow set of issues, and it was just that — to get as many people out as we possibly could,” he said.
“And so I would not lead to — I would not make any leaps of logic to, you know, a broader — to broader issues,” he said.
“I would just say that, again, I’m immensely proud of — of what — what our troops have done to this point, and it’s hard to predict where this will go in the future with respect to the Taliban,” he said.
“We don’t know what the future of the Taliban is, but I can tell you from personal experience that this is a ruthless group from the past, and whether or not they change remains to be seen,” Milley said, according to the transcript.
“And as far as our dealings with them at that airfield or in the past year or so, in war, you do what you must in order to reduce risk to mission and force, not what you necessarily want to do,” he said.
From the diplomatic side, Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland would not rule anything out.
“Our relationship with the Taliban will be guided by what they do not by what they say,” Nuland said, according to CNBC.
“Now that said, there are some urgent questions, like the humanitarian condition of the people of Afghanistan. So we are looking at those kinds of things,” she said.
“But we have made no decisions about any of the rest of it, and we certainly won’t unless and until we see the kinds of behavior expected,” Nuland said.
“A new chapter of America’s engagement with Afghanistan has begun. It’s one in which we will lead with our diplomacy,” Blinken said. “The military mission is over, a new diplomatic mission has begun.”
“Going forward, any engagement with the Taliban-led government in Kabul will be driven by one thing only, our vital national interests,” Blinken said. “Every step we take will be based not on what a Taliban-led government says, but what it does to live up to its commitments.”
“The Taliban seeks international legitimacy and support. Our message is, any legitimacy and any support will have to be earned,” he said.
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