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US commanders claim Afghan strategy boosting peace hopes

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KABUL: Increasing prospects of peace talks with the Taliban show the US strategy in Afghanistan is working, despite continuing violence and insurgent control of wide areas of the countryside, top US commanders in Afghanistan said.
The comments came as speculation has grown that talks to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan may be closer after last month’s ceasefire over the Eid holiday brought scenes of unarmed fighters and soldiers mingling on the streets.
“The advancement towards the reconciliation goal in President Trump’s strategy has seen progress in the last year that we haven’t seen in the previous 17 years and that is significant,” General John Nicholson, commander of the Nato-led Resolute Support mission, told reporters.
“I believe this advancement towards peace is extremely relevant and in a way is perhaps more important than some of these other metrics that we’ve been using,” he said.
Almost a year after US President Donald Trump sent more troops to Afghanistan and gave commanders greater authority to use air strikes against the Taliban, thousands of civilians are still being killed and wounded and the government holds no more than two-thirds of the country.
However General Joseph Votel, the top US regional commander who was visiting Kabul, expressed “cautious optimism” about the progress made. He said the strategy, which set no deadline for US forces to leave Afghanistan, had squeezed the Taliban and created the space for diplomatic and social pressure for peace to build.