Photo credit: Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is interviewed by BBC World News Presenter Yalda Hakim during the Halifax International Security Forum Nov. 17, 2018. Dunford provided insights on the shift towards great power competition in the most recent US National Defense Strategy and the steps the US military is taking to maintain its technological competitive advantage. He also fielded questions from the plenary, covering a variety of topics, including the US South-Asia Strategy, the importance of regional partnerships for countering global terrorism, and the US role in NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe. (DOD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro/Released)
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff emphasized to Yalda Hakim, a foreign correspondent of BBC World News, that there is no military solution in Afghanistan and that the struggle in that country will require all aspects of government.
The chairman was participating in a Halifax Chat as part of the 10th annual International Security Forum here.
“Success in Afghanistan is an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” Dunford said. “That requires us to have political pressure, social pressure and military pressure. In the military dimension, our task is to make sure the Taliban realize that they cannot win on the battlefield.”
NATO and partner nations are working closely with Afghan national security forces to keep the pressure on the Taliban. At the same time, other agencies are working to improve economic conditions in the country. In addition, Islamic organizations are working to encourage the Taliban to talk with and ultimately join the Afghan government. Religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Pakistan have issued fatwas calling on the Taliban to lay down their weapons and talk peace, Dunford said.
Part of the pressure was the recent elections in Afghanistan. “The elections that just took place, [were] largely successful and less violent, certainly, than people predicted,” he said. “And I think political transition in 2019 will also be critical in putting pressure on the Taliban.”
All this will combine to convince Taliban leaders that their future lies with reconciliation, the general said.
“But the key to success is to combine all of that pressure to incentivize the Taliban for, again, that Afghan-owned, Afghan-led reconciliation process,” he said.
Undergirding everything in Afghanistan is the South Asia Strategy. A key provision in that is its conditions-based approach. The Afghan government and Afghan people know that the world is with them in trying to move through this constant state of war. “And I would also say that the decision by NATO and partner nations to support the Afghan national defense security forces through 2024 absolutely affects the Taliban’s calculus,” Dunford said.