The outgoing US top commander for Afghanistan this week offered a short summary of the situation in that country. Gen Joseph Votel talked in military terms about the simple need for fine-tuning. Particularly when it comes to local forces’continued reliance on checkposts in remote areas; thereby rendering them vulnerable to Taliban attack. Yet the overriding message was clear: there are no real complaints as to how America’s longest war is going.And herein lies the rub. For all the belated talk of the need for negotiated peace, Washington remains primarily consumed by what is happening on the battlefield. Including the nigh on impossible task of distinguishing between ISIS and the Taliban. According to the good general, this is because the former will never be offered any kind of olive branch; they are war criminals and must be treated as such. Even the Taliban recognises this much. Keeping all this in mind, one begins to understand the fixation on military gains. Though the US has been known to partner swap. So, never say never. Yet it is not just the men in khaki who cannot quite overcome what they see as the astonishing revelation that the Afghan people desperately seek peace. As opposed to, you know, the continued raining down of bullets-and-bombs. Something that only came to the attention of the US and its NATO allies back in June when the Taliban called a three-day ceasefire. As if up until then, those who are running this war were a bit iffy about the hopes of ordinary civilians.Sadly, this myopia, wilful or otherwise, extends to certain sections of the western media where well-meaning endeavours to highlight the flip side of the conflict become ultimately self-serving. This happens when improved human indicators, like a drop in maternal mortality rates or the emergence of an independent media are contextualised against the backdrop of Washington’s commitment to peace. The force-fed bottom line then becomes how the US will never sacrifice these visible signs of progress. Read more: Changing the record in AfghanistanBut, truth be told, this is a deeply flawed rhetoric. For two reasons. Firstly, it conveniently ignores the role and burden of responsibility of the foreign occupying power. And secondly, for all the talk of how this peace process must be Afghan-led and -owned — President Ashraf Ghani is conspicuous by his narrative absence. The message this therefore sends to the Afghan people is: global interest in their country does not go beyond territorial success. Were this not been the case, much more would have been said about how Ghani has failed to outperform his predecessor on the corruption front. Similarly, there has been near echoingly silence on how his warlord vice president, Gen Dostum, has returned to a hero’s welcome after more than a year in self-exile following charges of attempted rape and sexual assault of a political rival. Indeed, before he was his number two, Ghani had previously referred to Dostum as a “known killer”; in clear acknowledgment of the latter’s involvement in war crimes. Thus if the Americans are serious about overseeing any kind of victory in Afghanistan they need to change the script. Urgently. For as things stand, it reads as if it has come straight out of Kabul Kitchen. *Published in Daily Times, August 10th 2018.