Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tuesdays With the Taliban

The Washington Post reports that both President-Elect Obama and the top US/NATO commander in Iraq, General David McKiernan are at least receptive to the idea of negotiations with "reconcilable" elements of the Taliban. The Nir Rosen "embedded with the Taliban" article sheds some light on the pragmatic, less ideologically driven nature of some of the lower level Taliban fighters.

In my most recent policy memo for this class, I advised against such steps. My argument was that including the theocratic Taliban in Afghanistan's future in any way was contrary to the liberal values of the US and our NATO allies. I would add, of course, that the Taliban is directly responsible for the deaths of US soldiers and, through its Al Qaeda client, the deaths of 3,000 innocent US civilians on 9/11.

However, elements of the tribal groups involved in the Awakening in Iraq were also involved in the insurgency that had killed a substantial number of American soldiers, and that strategy was carried out with relatively little controversy. The fact that the negotiations would theoretically pit the practical lower level elements of the Taliban against the hardline upper reaches of the leadership structure, including Mullah Omar (this is NOT the Omar whom my name is an homage to), also changes the equation to a certain extent. Negotiations, then, might provide a way to divide and conquer the Taliban.

Furthermore, it's important to remember that Al Qaeda and bin Laden were the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks and therefore should be the ultimate target of our wrath. If talks with Taliban underlings are able to pry Al Qaeda away from its patrons and further expose it, then they may prove to be desirable.

Ultimately, I remain skeptical of any sort of deal with the Taliban because it is simply a horribly odious organization. Given, however, the increasingly dire situation in Afghanistan and the region, drastic steps such as these may begin to seem more practical.

1 comment:

J. said...

Dude, seriously, that's your position? That the Taliban are "odious" and so we ought to just keep fighting them for the next decade? Have you ever looked at the US govt's historical alliances with Stalin, Batista, Diem, the Shah of Iran, Marcos, Putin, other "odious" leaders?

Here's your challenge. If you categorically reject supporting Afghan govt talks with Taliban, then you have to explain why the USG has failed to articulate and carry out a strategy to secure Afghanistan with any future plan. It's not the priority, our allies are largely ineffective, and the Afghan govt is corrupt. So exactly what is your alternative other than to continue feeding people into the sausage machine?