Talking To The Enemy


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Finally, neither the US government nor the government of Afghanistan know for sure to whom they are speaking. There was an embarrassing incident last year in which an impostor traveled in a NATO plane to Kabul posing as an important Taliban leader. He accepted a large amount of cash, was feted by the Afghan government, until his ruse was exposed.

3. Only sustained military pressure will bring the Taliban to heel

Secretary Gates believes that there is no prospect for quick progress in any talks with the Taliban. “My own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter,” said Gates. The “fighting seasons” in Afghanistan are the spring and summer which means that any pressure we can place on the Taliban before winter sets in could lead to some kind of preliminary talks. Former Obama adviser on Afghanistan Bruce Riedel describes the effort so far as “contacts about contacts, trying to figure out whether the people willing to talk on the Taliban side represent anyone other than themselves.”

“I think that the Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure and begin to believe that they can’t win before they’re willing to have a serious conversation,” said Gen. George Joulwan, a former NATO supreme allied commander. But Long War Journal’s Bill Roggio says that even with the surge, we are a long way from applying that kind of pressure.

Roggio, who has made several trips to Afghanistan to report on conditions there, writes that “even with the US pressure in Helmand and Kandahar the past year, the Taliban still control vast areas of the east and north, as well as pockets in the south.” He also mentioned the safe haven given to Taliban fighters by Pakistan as another reason it is difficult to pressure the enemy.

4. It will be difficult to get any assistance from Pakistan

Why do we need Pakistan’s help to negotiate with the Taliban? The enemy’s leadership lives in the province of Balochistan in the city of Quetta where the Taliban leadership council, or Shura, meets. As recent history has shown, Pakistani intelligence has some connections to Taliban leadership and might convince the latter to negotiate with the US.

But Pakistan is still stinging from the bin Laden raid, as well as other incidents that have caused a lot of friction in our relationship. Suffice it to say that the Pakistani military is in no mood at the present to do us any favors.

Ultimately, the question of leaving Afghanistan precipitously comes up when discussing the wisdom of talking to implacable enemies whose fanatical hatred of Americans would prevent them from compromising. The fact is, the army and police forces we are training to take over when all American combat troops are supposed to leave in 2014 are nowhere near ready, and have demonstrated little stomach so far to engage the Taliban in the areas assigned to them.

This is why the initial draw-down of US forces should be minimal, as the Pentagon is recommending. The president is set to announce his decision on Wednesday, but the pace of withdrawal would ideally hinge on the success – or failure – of negotiations with the Taliban. But the political pressure coming from even his own party to speed the withdrawal is intense, making any measured actions by the president problematic.

But there is a case to be made that it is far too soon to be pulling out of Afghanistan — negotiations or not. Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, writing in the Weekly Standard, make the point that if the ultimate goal of the war is to defeat not just the Taliban, but al-Qaeda as well, we must continue a high level of pressure on the Taliban in order to see our counter-insurgency strategy in Pakistan succeed:

Moreover, al-Qaeda is not finished because of bin Laden’s death. Senior leaders continue to live and work in Pakistan, coordinating operations with other al-Qaeda franchises around the world to attack Americans and America. What is the strategy for finishing this fight if we abandon Afghanistan prematurely or put progress toward stabilizing that country at risk?

The Kagans discern a connection between fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan and destroying al-Qaeda in Pakistan. “Any rationalization that relies on separating those two undertakings is, in fact, misinformed and dangerous.” There is a symbiotic relationship that, if broken by a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan, would make our counter-insurgency efforts in Pakistan useless.

But political considerations appear to be the driving force in our attempts to negotiate with the Taliban. And there doesn’t seem to be any stomach in the administration – or on the Hill – for much else.

Rick Moran is Blog Editor of The American Thinker, and Chicago Editor of PJ Media. His personal blog is Right Wing Nuthouse.

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  • Wesley69

    So the US is seeking to negotiate with North Vietnam, hold on, wrong war. The US is seeking to negotiate with the Taliban, who will reimpose Sharia Law on this country, and could decide to become a haven for terrorists again?

    Excuse me, but why did we go into Afghanistan in the first place? To kill Bin Laden and as many al-Queda as possible, and to topple the Taliban government that gave sanctuary to these terrorists.

    We, or should I say, Obama got Bin Laden, but now, we want to toss in the towel, forgetting all the American lives lost and the treasure we have spent in this country, withdrawing troops in time for the 2012 election??? I thought Obama said this was the "good" war???

    I suppose the Obama regime will proclaim victory as Kabul is captured and Afghans, who worked with the US, are massacred as what happened in Vietnam after Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese.

    With Egypt moving into the camp of the Radical Islamists (Muslim Brotherhood) and with Iran poised to acquire a nuclear capability, the Obama regime probably shouldn't talk about foreign policy at all, but talk they will have to.

    And what a well-formulated policy it is: to anger our allies, to appease our enemies and to diminish the power and influence of the United States in the world.

  • mrbean

    Remember the Paris Peace Talks and the promises of the Viet Cong and the NVA – and of course the the promises of the United States to aid South Vietnam. All of them were broken, the worst being the betrayal of the South Vietnamese and Cambodians by the United States post-Watergate Democrats resulting in the deaths of 1.5 million Cambodians in the killing fields and well over 1 million South Vietnamese in the purges and the reeducation camps. What makes this naive Obama adminsitration think that Afghanistan would be any different?

  • tagalog

    I thought the U.S. was at war with the Taliban.

    The way I understand the American way of war is that we close with the enemy and destroy him until he has no will to resist. Negotiation with our enemy suggests that we have not been destroying his will to resist.

    War means we kill our enemy until he surrenders. I can understand the unwillingness to accept the fact that our military exists for the purpose of killing people and blowing things up, and the temptation to use our military as some sort of "hole card" in some sort of political poker game, but our military only has validity to the extent that it kills people and blows things up until our enemy surrenders.

    So if we're not going to use our military to kill people and blow things up, we'd better stop putting our valuable military people in harm's way and negotiate without them. If we aren't going to fight to win, we ought to get out of Afghanistan. Especially when the people who we made leaders want us out. Just get out or fight to win.

    I understand the critique that our military isn't doing very well relating to the leadership and the people in the more hostile valleys and towns. That's because the usual role of our military is to be doing things like firing artillery on areas of resistance, driving tanks through the walls of mud shacks and shooting people who resist them, making people do things so as not to interfere with the military mission, and so on. If our leaders want diplomacy in the valleys and towns, they better start sending diplomats and not soldiers out there.

    • Fred Dawes

      understand one fact the chinese have made deals that is why you will see some real evil acts by this government against out guys in conbat, the way to deal with Little insect inside our government is to remove that insect by any means necessary.

  • BS77

    what is there to negotiate with the Taliban? Afghanistan was recently listed as the WORST nation on earth for women. Under the brutal and barbaric Taliban, women were treated as virtual slaves. Schools were bombed. Women were forbidden to work, attend school or leave their homes….Schools for boys were little more than indoctrination mills. The Taliban murdered anyone who called for reform. THe Taliban ignored international calls for restraint and blew up the enormous Buddhist statues in northern Afghanistan….It is a dismal thing….seeing the Taliban eagerly awaiting the US withdrawal so they can resume putting Afghanistan back into the Dark Ages.

  • UCSPanther

    You cannot negotiate with delusional, ideologically driven people, especially religious fanatics. Plain and simple. Their black-and-white world view prevents them from compromising, and in the case of the Taliban, granting them a position in a power-sharing deal will put them into a position where they could launch a coup d'etat (of which they doubtlessly would make an attempt at) and thus, return Afghanistan to a terrorist-infested Islamic Fundamentalist prison state (albeit ramshackle) like it was before.

  • Viking

    What a slap in the face on those brave troops who lost their lives. How much more can you insult their memories without literally pissing on their graves. An absolute disgrace.

    The whole country is a disaster.

    I don’t know why they even bothered to send in troops in the first place. They should have bombed Kabul into a pile of rubble and liquidated the responsible for 9/11. That’s it.

  • Ghostwriter

    Once again,President Obama is proving himself to be a naive fool. Once the Taliban returns,they'll do the same hideous things they've always done. Why can't President Obama see this?

  • mrbean

    There is a line from the book, "Real Men Don't Eat Quiche" that goes something like "Never settle anything with words that you can settle more effectively with a flamethrower." Negotiating with terrorists or the terrorist supporters is futile and last time I checked there is no shortage of napalm.

  • Fred Dawes

    Yes we need to start understanding we have a war here its called mexico and the third world. my sister kid has been in the Army for 10 years 8 in conbat, ask him and 200,000 other guys, its hopeless becuase of rats like Obama, the army could win in 60 days if it was allowed to kill the rats, but that will never happen, soon we will see real conbat here our political leaders want that and will do anything to kill Americans, ask why 50 percent are from other places and deep down hate this country and its real people.

  • Fred Dawes

    We need to see it for what it is.

  • tagalog

    Yes, it was intended that our military forces engage in something other than death and destruction. Now that a decade has gone by, and it's become humiliatingly obvious what a really crappy idea that was, what's wrong with advocating that our military be the death- and devastation-dealing arm of our government, and that if it isn't going to be doing that, it's best that our military stay out of the equation?

    • Jim_C

      What's wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. I wish it were so.

      But you are advocating sanity and sanity is not a salient characteristic of our leaders at this point. And unfortunately I think a shtload of pork depends on the other, broader definition of what the military does. Mr. Eisenhower continues to be proven correct.

  • Bart Phelps

    Of course, “conflict resolution” and “confidence building” is the jargon employed by the morally neutral political science of modernity. This political science, whose father is Machiavelli, makes no distinction between good regimes and bad regimes.

    Consider this: The Good, the Bad, and the Neutral http://i-ari.org/the-good-the-bad-and-the-neutral

  • Stuart Parsons

    How can one negotiate with an organisation that believes itself to be authorised by its god to, in the greater interest of Islam, indulge in taqiyya (lying) and kitman (dissimulation by omission) . In such a situation, how can one place any reliance on what the Taliban say and be sure it will not go back on its word at the first oppotunity ?

    Islam is a total and utter mess. It is a far greater threat to the well-being of mankind than Fascism and Communism ever were.

  • http://www.display.com/display display

    We need to see it for what it is.

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