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The attack in Afghanistan is reminiscent of a daunting task



WASHINGTON – The assassination of Afghan leaders in Kandahar province will not diminish US support for the war in Afghanistan or deter local security forces in the fight against the Taliban, the US's top military commander Middle East said on Saturday

gene. Joseph Votel said the US was "pretty confident that the Afghans could maintain the situation in Kandahar."

The Taliban said Thursday's attack, which killed an influential police chief, was directed against the US commander-in-chief in Afghanistan. But US military officials say Army General Scott Miller is not in the line of fire, and he escapes unhurt.

The attack just before the parliamentary elections on Saturday, during which violence stifled some votes, was a clear reminder of the daunting task the Trump government faces in trying to liberate America from its longest war.

Votel expressed its confidence in the ability of Afghan forces to provide security for the election and the future.

"I rate the Afghans as resilient," he said. "I do not think that's something that will change the security situation."

Shooting with Kandahar, he said, will "not diminish our will or our forward movement".

Votel comment on travel reporters With him at Al Udeid Air Force Base in Qatar, he reiterated the opinion expressed by US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Friday.

"We remain absolutely committed to Afghan reconciliation," said Mattis on Friday at an Asian security conference in Singapore. "Right now we are voting and we will continue to defend the Afghan people."

But the timing of the attack makes US targets appear farther and farther away.

It was only a week after the reported US return channel talks with the Taliban and the government's efforts to initiate peace negotiations between the militant group and the Afghan government to end the war, which is now beginning in its 18th year.

There are approximately 14,000 US troops in Afghanistan in a mission to train and support Afghan government forces fighting the Taliban who control or deny nearly half of the country's districts. The violence is rising and demanding the lives of hundreds of civilians every month. So far this year, there have been seven deaths from US fighter jets.

U.S. Lieutenant Colonel David Butler, who was close to the shooting after Miller hit Afghan officials, denied the Taliban and said the target was Kandahar's chief of police, Abdul Raziq, one of the three officers killed. But even their claim that they were going to Miller raised doubts as to whether the militants were actually ready to bargain.

The recent appointment of former US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad as ambassador for Afghan reconciliation was intended to boost US peace efforts to persuade the Taliban to engage in direct talks with the Ashraf Ghani government.

The Taliban said their political representatives in Qatar had met with Khalilzad a week ago on his first multinational trip since he took up his new post. The State Department did not confirm, but did not refuse, the meeting on October 12, which was widely regarded as tacit recognition in Washington. A similar scenario occurred in July when the Taliban reported meeting with senior US diplomat for South and Central Asia, Alice Wells.

The risk of such return channel talks could alienate the Afghan government. The Taliban claimed that the two sides were thinking of finding a way to pull foreign troops out of Afghanistan – an issue that would call on the Afghan government, as that was the key to a peace settlement. Because the US officials did not confirm the meeting, they could not publicly deny the Taliban's report on the meeting.

The Taliban have condemned the elections and declared them to be a US-rigged event to bolster their influence on the country's elections, and pledged to disrupt them.

The election for the 249-seat lower house is already three years overdue. The US has pledged nearly $ 80 million for UN-led support to Afghan electoral agencies.

The election in southern Kandahar province was postponed for a week due to the attack there and did not take place in Ghazni due to the insecurity there

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Baldor reported from Doha, Qatar. Associated Press authors Deb Riechmann in Washington and Robert Burns in Singapore have contributed to this report.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, transmitted, rewritten or redistributed.


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