US, China and Russia call for all sides to hold Afghan peace...

US, China and Russia call for all sides to hold Afghan peace talks, as more information about the war becomes classified

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Airmen from the 451st Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron perform routine maintenance on an A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan on April 4. (Capt. Anna-Marie Wyant/U.S Air Force)

WASHINGTON — Representatives from the U.S., China and Russia have urged all parties in the Afghan conflict to meet “as soon as possible” in an effort to bring the war in Afghanistan to a peaceful conclusion, the State Department said Friday.

“Toward this end, and as agreed in Moscow in February 2019, we support a second round of intra-Afghan dialogue in Doha (Qatar),” representatives of the three nations said in a joint statement, sent Friday to reporters by the State Department.

Representatives of the three countries met to discuss the war on Thursday in Moscow.

The first talks between the Afghan government in Kabul and the Taliban, the primary adversary, were not held this week as originally scheduled.

“The three sides support an inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and are ready to provide necessary assistance,” the statement said. “The three sides encourage the Afghan Taliban to participate in peace talks with a broad, representative Afghan delegation that includes the government as soon as possible.”

The representatives also urged all sides to respect calls for a ceasefire and “agree on immediate and concrete steps to reduce violence.”

The trilateral meeting occurred as the Pentagon continued to place more information on the progress of the Afghanistan war into classified categories — making it difficult to assess progress in all areas.

“Almost every indicia, metric for success or failure is now classified or nonexistent,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), told defense writers on Wednesday. “Over time, it’s been classified or it’s no longer being collected.”

As an example, Sopko said it is a well-known fact that casualty rates for Afghan forces are high and continuing to soar. Yet the actual numbers — or even admission of such reality — is classified at the request of the Afghan government and has been for some time, he said.

Other metrics such as attrition, capability assessments and operational readiness of equipment have been classified since 2017; in 2018, classified was stamped on basic performance evaluations for the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces, as well as the Afghan Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense, among other things.

“The classification in some areas is needless,” Sopko said. “Embarrassing things tend to get classified in this town (Washington).”

Sopko also said the Pentagon has become too dependent on Afghan special forces to win the ground war. “My staff tells me that’s still a concern,” Sopko said. “There was basically a burnout and sustainability question.”

Sopko’s upcoming quarterly report is expected next week. The quarterly reports are mandated by Congress to track waste, fraud and abuse in U.S. reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

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