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‘Not if but When’ Afghan War Reignites: US Envoy

The US pointman on Afghanistan on Wednesday predicted that conflict would reignite in the war-battered nation, saying the Taliban have failed to build bridges since returning to power last year.

“I really do fear — and I think this is a consensus — that what we see now is a pause in 44 years of conflict and that we could see a return to civil war in time,” said Thomas West, the US special representative on Afghanistan.

“Within our analyst community, the question is not if but when we will see the re-emergence of conflict,” he said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

A Taliban-led meeting of thousands of “ulema,” or religious scholars, in June and July showed that the Taliban were not serious about representing the “richness or diversity” of Afghanistan, he said.

“There still is an imperative to see a political process unfold,” he said.

West has met with the Taliban since the takeover but has come out pessimistic on key concerns, with the United States earlier this month deciding to put frozen Afghan reserves in an outside fund, arguing it could not trust the central bank.

The United States also accused the Taliban of violating commitments by sheltering Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was found at a house in Kabul and killed by a US drone in August.

But West said the Taliban were also largely abiding by agreements to let Afghans leave the country and have not launched a “systematic, nationwide” campaign against Afghans who worked with US forces or the fallen Western-backed government.

“I think that the Taliban are sincere in wanting to see a policy of no reprisals,” West said.

The Taliban, while negotiating a withdrawal by the United States, engaged in talks with the former government of Ashraf Ghani that considered future power-sharing.

The process collapsed and the Taliban swiftly seized control of the country as President Joe Biden last year withdrew the final US troops, saying America’s longest war was no longer worth it.

West cast blame on the former administration of Donald Trump, saying its decision to start withdrawing troops was “untethered from the negotiation,” reducing the Taliban’s incentive to compromise.

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