- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Pentagon is looking to senior leaders in the Islamic world to apply “religious pressure” to the Taliban, as part of a new strategy to bring the Afghan insurgents to the negotiation table, the top U.S. commander in the country said Tuesday.

“There will be religious pressure applied to the Taliban with the ulemas hosted in Indonesia and elsewhere to strip away the religious legitimacy for jihad in Afghanistan,” said Gen. John Nicholson, referring to the cadre of scholars whose expertise in in interpretation of Islamic law is revered throughout the Muslim world.

Reaching out to top Islamist in a bid to get Taliban leaders to engage in a new round of peace talks goes hand in hand with Washington’s battle plan to ramp up U.S. military operations against the group during this year’s fighting season, Gen. Nicholson told reporters during a roundtable in Kabul, Voice of America reported Tuesday.

His comments come months after Jakarta proposed in January the establishment of a committee of ulemas from Indonesia, Pakistan and Afghanistan for the explicit purpose of bringing the 17-year Afghan war to an end, VOA reports.

U.S. and allied commanders anticipate such religious pressure could have a significant impact on the Taliban’s decision to pursue peace talks, as demands to end the war grow louder in Washington, Kabul and Islamabad ahead of Afghan parliamentary elections later this year.

Earlier this month, Pakistani National Security Adviser and former Lt. Gen. Nasser Khan Janjua said the United States must abandon any hope of winning the Afghan war and focus on ending the conflict by engaging in bilateral peace talks with the Taliban.

“End the suffering of Afghanistan and of its people. Let us seek the closure of the conflict, instead of winning it,” he said during an exclusive roundtable with reporters in in Islamabad.

“Let us resolve [the war] politically. Let us reconcile. How long do we want to continue to fight in Afghanistan?” the retired three-star general said during the roundtable at Pakistan’s National Security Division headquarters last Tuesday.

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