The Futility of Peace Talks in Afghanistan

James Dobbins of the RAND Corp. has written a piece which basically says the Obama administration’s recent attempts to negotiate with the Taliban is not a sign that the war is coming to an end. He compares it with peace talks between the U.S. and the North Vietnamese, which he was involved in as a diplomat:

Some may see negotiation as an easy or quick way out of Afghanistan, but the Vietnamese analogy suggests otherwise. The Paris talks lasted more than five years, whereas the Afghan process has not yet begun. Throughout those years the U.S. engagement in Vietnam was larger and more costly than the current U.S. engagement in Afghanistan in both blood and treasure. Throughout those years U.S. opposition to the war was much more intense than anything we have seen in the past decade. Yet the existence of negotiations served throughout most of that period as a rationale for continuing the fight, not for ending it. One cannot prove a counterfactual assumption, but I expect most historians would agree that, in the absence of the Paris peace talks, the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam would have come even earlier.

Peace talks were a “rationale for continuing the fight, not for ending it.” This isn’t so difficult to grasp when you take into consideration all of the non-campaign stump speeches that have been given on Afghanistan, all of which make it clear that the 2014 date Obama has set for “withdrawal” is actually more like a minor drawdown. You can also see the futility of the peace talks by noting the ridiculous proposals we’ve heard from both Washington and Kabul, like that the Taliban lay down their arms while negotiating or that they form a peaceful political party and run for parliament.

Steve Coll recently wrote a piece in the New Yorker on the peace talk efforts. There are rumors that Pakistan’s military and/or ISI has the Taliban leader Mullah Omar on house arrest. The U.S. has expressed a desire to negotiate directly with Mullah Omar because of his sway over the Taliban as a whole. But Pakistan has repeatedly exhibited an unwillingness to let that happen. They, of course, prefer a strong Taliban for the future of Afghanistan so as to act as a buffer preventing Pakistan’s rival India from dipping into Afghanistan diplomatically or economically. But the prospects for substantive peace talks are even more remote than that. The late envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke, told Coll before he passed away the following: “I don’t think we can negotiate with Mullah Omar, personally. That’s why I think eliminating Mullah Omar is so critical. Right now, if you could choose between Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, I personally would lean toward Mullah Omar.” Well, now bin Laden is dead and Omar and the peace talks seem as futile as ever.

It’s worth pointing out in this context how worthless the entire mission in Afghanistan seems. The war at this point is about trying to either rid Afghanistan of the Taliban, or negotiate them into democrats, neither of which is going to happen (especially so long as we keep brutalizing the civilian population, which serves as a recruiting tool for the Taliban). It’s also about training the Afghan government and security forces in being functional and sustainable, also a complete failure. A cursory look at the situation leads one immediately to the obvious conclusion that we actually have no strategic or national security interests in Afghanistan: we remain there for symbolic, face-saving, political reasons, not for any notion of national interest or protecting Americans. This is a heck of a lot of death, suffering, and waste for mere symbolic victories.

13 thoughts on “The Futility of Peace Talks in Afghanistan”

  1. ………………"This is a heck of a lot of death, suffering, and waste for mere symbolic victories"……………

    If the above were true……. You would be correct, but there are the little matters of Caspean energy, pipelines, keeping China down and the Neocon plans to deconstruct Pakistan and snatch their nukes.

    There is also the VAST GRAFT and just plain old PROFITS from NO BID CONTRACTS to supply the Afghan war. Did I mention that all the Neocons and a certain religious minority in the U.S. with disproportional political clout wants to SURROUND AND ATTACK IRAN… So anyone lookin to end the gravytrain AKA the Afghan war needs to walk on a lot of VERY well connected toes…
    You might wanna also consider….this:

    Where else will America go to …… "Spread the Golden Shower Light". of OUR superior ways…..

    It is not just anywhere that a country, even a spperpower can just kill citizens, and then make a film of it for the world to savor… OOoopps, I forgot Pakistan and Raymond Davis…. WTF!! We are superior and we a'nt takin no prisoners as we "piss away" what was once the land of the (formerly) free…..

  2. Surely if it's say piss on main stream netwerk TV, we can say it here when that is exactly was done… And NOT end up in the uncertain moderation dock…!!!!!

  3. "A cursory look at the situation leads one immediately to the obvious conclusion that we actually have no strategic or national security interests in Afghanistan: we remain there for symbolic, face-saving, political reasons, not for any notion of national interest or protecting Americans."

    I strongly disagree. The Empire thinks it "needs" bases in Afghanistan (and the other "stans") to surround Iran and pressure Russia and China, all part of its despicable, dangerous global domination strategy. THAT is the main reason the U.S. Empire continues to have more than 1,000 bases all over the planet and fleets of warships on every sea (plus, the War Profiteers and their Congressional/Presidential Stooges continue to get wealthier).

      1. Do you think it's possible that Hillary might have murdered Holbrook because he got to chummy with the Afghans or lost his loyalty to the population control and war profit scam of Zionism?

        I wish Obama would fire Hillary and give Cynthia McKinney the job of Secretary of State, like two weeks before the election, you know what I mean? The Neo-Cons are not going to be a threat.

  4. Does anyone know where a guy can find reliable figures on civilian deaths in Afghanistan/Pakistan??

  5. The negotiations seem just like in Vietnam, to keep the war going, to maximize profit for the Country Club and kill off the poorer American Jocks and take their women back home. Mean while the Taliban are seen as defenders from us by the Pashtun just like Charlie was to the Vietnamese.

    Remember in the end we pulled out of Vietnam, with a kalishnakov to the back of our head ,even leaving 500 Americans behind to used as war trophies, and hid it from the American People.

    After we pulled the US Military out of Vietnam, they quickly became labor Capitalist's and make the finest sneakers in the World. Vans, though I prefer American made Clothing, I often purchase these fine Shoe products because of there quality and style. Peace.

    I wish we could get some of that Afghan Lithium or copper to bring back the EV-1, but the PRC beat us again to it again, we were to busy killing People, Oh well.

  6. I think people are blowing this 'situation' way out of proportion… I know 'we've" had a "rough" few years, but I heard that Mr. Obama had an important meeting with Mickey Mouse last week… I feel ‘we’ may be turning the corner here… We should all get together and go out for pizza Friday night and everything will be "just fine"…. You'll see…

  7. "we do not negotiate with terrorists"

    amazing how the republicons haven't lit up uncle tom over that one

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