Shamila N. Chaudhary at Foreign Policy notes how the Taliban are getting criticized for not having a consistent message on peace talks: they issued a Jan.3 statement about starting up a political office in Qatar and a willingness to negotiate, and then on Jan 12 they issued another statement clarifying that talks don’t mean “surrender from jihad and neither is it connected to an acceptance of the constitution of the stooge Kabul administration.”
So which is it? Well, apparently some factions of the Taliban want talks and political reconciliation, and others want plainly to win militarily. Chaudhary then kindly reminds us that this is precisely what the U.S. approach looks like regarding Afghanistan.
Likewise, the U.S. approach of “fight, talk, build,” does not mean that the administration speaks with one voice. The tensions among American defense, intelligence, and diplomatic communities on the Taliban’s willingness to negotiate are well documented. At face value, the military’s reluctance to characterize Taliban intentions reflects an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of its military campaign in Afghanistan. The risk-averse nature of the intelligence community often lends itself to the most conservative estimate possible — rendering any possibility of negotiation impossible. Meanwhile, diplomats believe political talks are the only solution.
It might get a little confusing for Afghan civilians and Taliban fighters that the U.S. expresses its commitment to peace talks and then demonstrates a commitment to killing Afghans, paying murderous militias, and occupying the country for the foreseeable future.
Relatedly, this RAND study from 2008 provides quantitative analysis on “how terrorist groups end,” and concludes political deals are the way to go:
Following an examination of 648 terrorist groups that existed between 1968 and 2006, we found that a transition to the polit- ical process is the most common way in which terrorist groups ended (43 percent). The possibility of a political solution is inversely linked to the breadth of terrorist goals. Most terrorist groups that end because of politics seek narrow policy goals. The narrower the goals of a terrorist organization, the more likely it can achieve them without violent action—and the more likely the government and terrorist group may be able to reach a negotiated settlement.
Two points: (1) This language reminds me of when the U.S. demands the Taliban “abandon terrorism” as a prerequisite to negotiations. Will the U.S. do the same? (2) It’s good to hear political solutions are inversely linked to the goals of, in this case, the Taliban; it doesn’t get much narrower than “get the hell out of my country.”
Addendum: As Jon Stewart would say, here it is, your moment of Zen…NBC’s Brian Williams in Monday’s GOP debate asked, “Governor [Romney], how do you end the war in Afghanistan without talking to the Taliban?” Romney replied: “By beating them.”