By Barry Rubin
Ahmad Rashid is widely considered to be the best journalist on Afghan and related Pakistani issues. And he has a scoop over the secret U.S. negotiations with the Taliban. I respect him though I don’t necessarily agree with him. And Rashid’s points must be integrated into the U.S. and Western debate over Afghanistan.
Here’s the key section:
“The talks are premised on the essential realisation that neither a successful western withdrawal from Afghanistan nor a transition to Afghan forces can take place, without an end to the civil war and a political settlement that involves the Afghan government and the Taliban, but also Pakistan, the US and the region.”
Think about that, whether or not it is accurate. What Rashid is saying is that the U.S. government “knows” that it has to make a deal with the Taliban to withdraw from Afghanistan. And since the Obama Administration is eager to get out (for political reasons more than strategic ones), it has a strong need to reach agreement with the Taliban, which means that unilateral concessions are likely.
Rashid provides a detailed history of the talks and concludes:
“A former Taliban leader told me recently that `’the fundamental problem is between the US and the Taliban and we consider the Afghan government as the secondary problem.’…If that is the case and the Taliban would like to see an orderly western exit from Afghanistan, the media and governments must allow these talks to succeed.”
This reminds me of Vietnam and other places where a revolutionary group maintained that the government stands only because of foreign support. Eliminate the foreign support and the radicals will win. The local government is treated as a puppet that is of no significance.
The bottom line, though, is that the U.S. government is seeking a deal with the group that facilitated and aided the September 11 attacks. Of course, once Western forces are out of Afghanistan, the Taliban will restart its effort to seize state power and a demoralized Afghan government is more likely to collapse.
None of this is known to most Americans. If they were aware that their government’s hidden strategy in withdrawing is to make a deal with the Taliban, with September 11 blood on its hands, one wonders what their attitude would be.