No New Taliban Peace Talks Expected

The Taliban has shifted its main effort to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, with attacks expected to increase as the poppy harvest ends and the fighting season begins, the top spokesman for the American-led train and equip mission said. Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, deputy chief of staff for communication with the Resolute Support mission, said Wednesday that the Taliban gained ground in 2015, and Afghan forces, using new air support and special operations capabilities, are focusing on retaking that land. The Taliban has selected a new leader following the airstrike last month that killed former leader Mullah Mansur. The Afghan government and US officials do not expect to see peace talks in the near future with the new leader, Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada. However, Cleveland said, Resolute Support hopes to see lower level Taliban leaders, those in charge of 50 to 100 fighters at the district level, take notice of continued violence, the growing capabilities of the Afghan forces, and remaining precision attack ability from the US, and choose to try to reintegrate with the country.