Afghanistan crisis: Unclear if ruthless Taliban will change, says US general

The top US general has described the Taliban as a “ruthless group” and says it is unclear whether they will change.

Gen Mark Milley said, however, it was “possible” that the US would co-ordinate with the Islamist militants on future counter-terrorism operations.

US forces withdrew from Afghanistan on Tuesday, ending America’s longest war 20 years after launching an invasion to oust the Taliban.

The Islamists are now in control and expected to announce a new government.

Gen Milley was speaking alongside US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, in their first public remarks since the last troops left Afghanistan.

US President Joe Biden has been widely criticised over the abrupt manner of the withdrawal, which led to the unexpected collapse of the Afghan security forces the US had trained and funded for years.

The Taliban’s lightning advance sparked off a frenetic effort to evacuate thousands of foreign nationals and local Afghans who had been working for them.

In the news conference on Wednesday, both Gen Milley and Secretary Austin praised the troops who had served in Afghanistan and the massive evacuation mission.

Asked about their co-ordination with the Taliban in getting evacuees to the airport, Mr Austin said: “We were working with the Taliban on a very narrow set of issues, and that was just that – to get as many people out as we possibly could.”

“In war you do what you must in order to reduce risk to mission and force, not what you necessarily want to do,” Gen Milley added.

He said it was possible that the US would co-ordinate with the Taliban on future action against Islamic State affiliate IS-K, the group which claimed an attack outside Kabul airport last week that killed as many as 170 people, including 13 US service personnel.

IS-K is the most extreme and violent of all the jihadist militant groups in Afghanistan. It has major differences with the Taliban, accusing them of abandoning jihad and the battlefield. BBC

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