The Trump administration is reportedly urging American-backed Afghan troops to surrender vast areas of the country to the Taliban as it negotiates with the Islamist group, the New York Times reports.
The strategy is meant to protect US forces from attacks at isolated and vulnerable outposts and focuses on protecting urban areas such as the capital Kabul.
The Times reports that the State Department is negotiating directly with the Taliban, without the involvement of the Afghan government. Negotiations with the group, which currently is locked in a civil war against the US-backed Afghan government, reportedly took place in Qatar last week.
Trump’s retreat to the cities comes as an acknowledgment that military victory against the group – that led a campaign of terror against the Afghan population and provided a safe haven for Al Qaeda following the 9/11 attacks – is not imminent.
A Defense Department official said some Afghan commanders have resisted the plan because of concerns that the local populations in the rural areas would feel betrayed. “Abandoning people into a situation where there is no respect for them is a violation of human rights,” said Mohammad Karim Attal, a member of the Helmand Provincial Council.
When Trump announced his new war strategy to defeat the Taliban last year, he declared that the terrorists “need to know they have nowhere to hide, that no place is beyond the reach of American might and American arms.”