Battleland

Talking About Talking To The Taliban

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US soldiers inspect the site of a suicide attack allegedly carried out by the Taliban near the gate of Kandahar airfield on January 19

It seems to be a hot issue, for reasons that aren’t completely clear. Everyone involved knows the U.S. has to come to some sort of accommodation with at least some elements of the Taliban, even if it has to begin in Qatar. Otherwise, the U.S. is simply building a sand castle at low tide.

“Civil” war – what other kind can there be between foreign-policy wonks and national-security insiders? — has broken out over the wisdom of such talks:

Over at Foreign Policy, Stephen Hadley (an old W. Bush hand) and John Podesta (an old Clinton hand) come together to say such negotiations are needed:

Efforts to reach a settlement should include an approach to Taliban elements that are ready to give up the fight and become part of the political process. Such an approach would not — as some have suggested — constitute “surrender” to America’s enemies. Rather, convincing combatants to leave the insurgency and enter into the political process is the hallmark of a successful counterinsurgency effort.

But Thomas H. Johnson and M. Chris Mason argue, also at FP, that there actually is – not to put too fine a point on it – no entity known as “the Taliban” with whom to negotiate.

The enemy is not interested in “peace talks” when they are convinced they have already won a complete victory against a hated and infidel puppet regime and an American puppeteer they now see as weak. And even if all that were not true, today’s disaggregated jihadist groups would not and could not keep any bargain which a few members of one crusader order might make in any case. “Peace talks” and hopes of a negotiated solution in Afghanistan are delusional, and American policy-makers should be devoting their time and efforts to managing the coming civil war in Afghanistan rather than weaving any more new clothes for the emperor.

Meanwhile, amid the lobbing of these verbal grenades back and forth in Washington, life goes on in Afghanistan:

– The Afghan government fears Washington might strike “a secret deal” with the Taliban that leaves the Kabul government out in the cold.

– The Taliban claimed credit for a suicide car bombing Thursday at the gate of the U.S. air base at Kandahar that killed seven civilians, including two children.

– A U.S. helicopter crashed Thursday in Helmand province, killing six U.S. troops. “Initial reporting indicates there was no enemy activity in the area at the time of the crash,” a spokesman said.

That’ll console the families.

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