On Talking While Fighting in Afghanistan

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.”

9 thoughts on “On Talking While Fighting in Afghanistan”

  1. John, what you may have overlooked is the fact that ‘if’ the Taliban were to retake control of Afghanistan, it would potentially compromise the “legitimate” perpetual ‘Drone Strikes’ on that nation. In some (not all) elitist foreign policy circles, “consent” to such strikes (for the most part) is considered essential. So even ‘if’, and when, the US “leaves”, it’s not quite so simple that ‘we’ will be gone…and how do ‘we’ negotiate this situation with the Taliban ‘terrorists’?

    For the umpteenth time: “WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS”…

  2. This is like watching American cops beat up on a civilian on the ground. With every swing of the club or electrical jolt from a taser they're yelling "stop resisting". Hell…. even looking at them the wrong way sets them off. So I understand the mentality here. You're not part of their club but you'll get one over the head.

  3. Unlike other commentators, I see resisting foreign invasion and occupation as a legitimate enterprise and should not be synomonous with "terrorism." We must remember that the Taliban and or Afghanistan played absolutely no role in 9/11. Furthermore, the Taliban made numerous concessions to the Bush Administration for the extradition of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was not as a result of 9/11, though this is cast as justification. During July of 2001, at a conference in Berlin, US oficials told Pakistan's Foreign Sceretary Niaz Niak that "we will attack Afghanistan before the snow flies in October." Also, when Taliban representative Sayed Hashemi ventured to Washington in August of 2001, he was threatened by US officials who said "you either accept our carpet of gold or we will bury you in a carpet of bombs" a not so subtle reference to failing negotiations over the Trans-Afghan-Pipeline project and the Taliban's favoring Bridas of Argentina for the multi-billion dollar project. The invasion of Afghanistan was therefore planned well in advance of 9/11.

  4. Registered bond is a bond whose ownership (and any subsequent purchaser) is recorded by the issuer, or by a transfer agent. It is the alternative to a Bearer bond.

  5. The great end, for which men entered into society, was to secure their property. That right is preserved sacred and incommunicable in all instances, where it has not been taken away or abridged by some public law for the good of the whole … If no excuse can be found or produced, the silence of the books is an authority against the defendant, and the plaintiff must have judgment.

  6. Once I received a call offering me a decent sum to turn for a pianist for a chamber music concert. I was pleased to finally get paid for something I’d been doing pro bono for years

  7. The modern society is still full of prejudices, which affect the perception of the surrounding world of people. At the same time, they often contribute to the ongoing discrimination, which is one of the main challenges to the democratic society. Competent and reasonable summary must give a hint to people. Thought about this workis likely to be rewarded in future.

Comments are closed.