Should the U.S. Negotiate With the Taliban?

NATO troops give Taliban leaders safe passage

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NATO troops are actively assisting the transportation and security of Taliban leaders based in Afghanistan and Pakistan to travel to Kabul for formal peace talks with the Afghan government, according to the New York Times' Dexter Filkins. The face-to-face talks continue the nascent peace process, which have arm's-length U.S. support. But NATO's direct oversight, and the new step of actively protecting insurgent leaders we'd otherwise be trying to kill, seem to suggest significant U.S. involvement in the peace talks, as the U.S. is the leading member of the NATO force in Afghanistan. Is NATO, and presumably the U.S., right to get involved in a peace process that involves some of the region's--if not the world's--most notorious terrorist groups?

  • Petraeus's 'Talk/Shoot' Strategy  The Washington Post's David Ignatius writes, "The diplomatic side of this game depends on Petraeus’s ability to pound those who resist — with devastating firepower. That’s why he has been pushing Pakistan so hard to step up its operations against the Haqqani network, sheltered in the tribal areas of the northwest, and against the Quetta Shura Taliban fighters, who operate from Baluchistan in Pakistan’s southwest."
  • Keep Expectations Low  The New Atlanticist's Donald Snow cautions, "Will such an outcome guarantee peace and stability in Afghanistan? Of course not. For one thing, such an outcome would necessitate a strong central regime in Afghanistan, and that almost never happens in that country. The outcome will have to be a reversion to basic tribal autonomy, and such outcomes have never resulted in long-term stability. Afghanistan is simply not a very peaceful place, and that is unlikely to change. For another, it must be apparent to all concerned that the current situation is a stalemate unlikely to be resolved decisively in one direction or another and that the alternatives are indecisive war without end or at least a peace respite. Better something than nothing."
  • If Alienated, Pakistan Could Undermine Talks  The New York Times' Dexter Filkins reports that the Afghan government is trying to keep Pakistan out of any peace deal. "But that strategy could backfire by provoking the Pakistanis, who could undermine any agreement. Mullah Muhammad Omar, the overall leader of the Taliban, is explicitly being cut out of the negotiations, in part because of his closeness to the Pakistani security services, officials said. Afghans who have tried to take part in, or even facilitate, past negotiations have been killed by their Taliban comrades, sometimes with the assistance of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI."
  • Sowing Confusion, Dissension in Taliban Ranks  Politics Daily's David Wood says just talking about talks could have a positive effect. "A glance at the organizational chart of the Taliban -- with a central shura, or governing council, based in Quetta, Pakistan, and three regional shuras, 10 district committees and dozens of battlefield commanders -- makes you wonder about negotiations with 'the Taliban.' Thanks to U.S. technology, Taliban communications are either monitored or jammed, so it's likely not every Talib knows who is doing the talking with Kabul or what they are saying. That sounds like a perfect recipe for internal confusion and distrust. Which may be part of the maneuvering that's now becoming evident."
  • Terrorists Can't Compromise  The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens warns, "The Taliban will never honor any agreement it makes. Like most modern insurgencies, its grievances are all pretexts: What it seeks is absolute power, exercised without restraint. We know how that movie ends. There's one way—and only one way—the U.S. could get the Taliban to come to terms: a series of decisive military blows that give them no other option."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.