Report to US Congress cautions against ‘handing a victory to Taliban’

A bipartisan report to US Congress stated that Washington should not abandon Afghanistan and instead extend the May 1 deadline for withdrawing the remaining troops.

The report stated that withdrawing all US troops by the deadline set in the US-Taliban deal signed a year ago, could lead to civil war, the destabilization of the region, and a revived al-Qaeda threat.

The United States “should not … simply hand a victory to the Taliban,” said the Afghanistan Study Group report, reflecting criticism that the Trump administration conceded too much to the insurgents in a bid to end America’s longest war, VOA reported.

Congress commissioned the group, whose co-chairs included retired Marine General Joseph Dunford, a former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, and former Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte.

According to VOA, Dunford told reporters the report was shared with aides to President Joe Biden, including Zalmay Khalilzad, the US peace envoy for Afghanistan reconciliation.

Following the submission of the report Wednesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said the Biden administration “plans to support” the peace process, and that it was assessing the Taliban’s commitment to cutting ties to al-Qaeda, reducing violence, and engaging in peace talks.

According to the report, US policy should be revised to help ensure that the peace talks in Doha between the Taliban and the Afghan Republic delegation include Afghan government officials and that a durable settlement to decades of war is reached, the report said.

“Achieving the overall objective of a negotiated stable peace that meets US interests would need to begin with securing an extension of the May deadline,” said the report, urging an “immediate” US diplomatic push to rally regional support for a delay.

VOA reported that an extension would let the Biden administration revise policy, and it would also give Washington time to restructure US civilian aid and offer Kabul incentives “to play a constructive role” in the peace efforts and advancing women’s and minority rights.