During a Congressional hearing on Tuesday, General (rtd) Joseph F Dunford, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also told lawmakers that the probability of civil war is high in the wake of a precipitous US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
“We know that the Taliban have had sanctuary in Pakistan. We know that they have an active diplomatic effort travelling to Moscow, travelling to Beijing, travelling to other countries. We know they travel in the Gulf. We know Iran has provided some material support,” he said.
Dunford said the Taliban gets its financial support from drug trade.
The Taliban, he said is a Sunni terrorist organisation. “There’s no question that the Taliban originates from the madrassas in Pakistan,” he said in response to a question. Dunford told lawmakers that the terrorist threat has been reduced because of the US trained Afghan forces and continued US military presence.
“We believe that the threat can reconstitute itself in a period of about 18 to 36 months and present a threat to the homeland and to our allies,” he said, adding that the Afghan forces are highly dependent on US funding, as well as operational support. They will remain so for some time.
“The probability of civil war is high in the wake of a precipitous US withdrawal,” he said, adding that Afghanistan meets the definition of a fragile state. Despite very real challenges, with support, the Afghan government can deliver minimally effective governance.
Dunford, who chairs Afghan Study Group of the US Institute of Peace, told lawmakers that the Taliban were not meeting the conditionality of the February 2020 agreement. That was as a result of not seeing a broad reduction in violence and as a result of not seeing the Taliban demonstrate the will or capacity to prevent Al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a platform.
“We are not advocating for a unilateral declaration that we remain behind after the first of May. We’re recommending that the Taliban actually hear that same message from other regional stakeholders, not the least of which is China, Russia and Pakistan,” he said.
“We do think that continued negotiations with the Taliban to highlight the fact that we remain committed to the February 2020 Agreement. We have demonstrated that, by drawing down to 2,500, we remain committed,” he said.
The US and the Taliban reached an agreement in February 2020 that called for a permanent ceasefire, peace negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, and a withdrawal of all foreign forces by May 1. There are about 2,500 US troops currently in the country.
The Taliban had their ouster at the hands of US-led troops in 2001.
The US has long considered Pakistani cooperation crucial to efforts to end the war in Afghanistan.