View Full Version : Talking to or with the Taliban

06-20-2013, 04:12 PM
The current diplomatic exchange over the opening of a Taliban @ Doha, conceals IMHO the reality of the USA talking with the Taliban.

My interest is in how those who have served, their families and thsoe who have lost sons and daughters will react. On KoW I found this relevant comment by Colin Powell, twenty years ago:
They’re [the American people] prepared to take casualties. And even if they see them on live television it will make them madder. Even if they see them on live television, as long as they believe it’s for a solid purpose and for a cause that’s understandable and for a cause that has something to do with an interest of ours. They will not understand it if it can’t be explained, which is the point I have made consistently over the years. If you can’t explain it to the parents who are sending their kids, you’d better think twice about it

From a 1996 interview by Barrie Dunsmore in ‘Live from the Battlefield’, in Pippa Norris (ed.), Politics and the Press: The News Media and Their Influences (London: Lynne Reiner, 1997), p. 261.


How will politicians explain this policy?

On a different aspect a new academic / think tank report:
Talking to the Taliban: Hope over History? was written by a team of researchers from King's College London and Queen Mary University of London with expertise on Afghanistan, other negotiations with insurgent groups, and Anglo-American foreign policy. It provides a history of previous attempts to negotiate with Afghan insurgents during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s, and negotiations with the Taliban since the start of the NATO mission there in 2001.

Link to report:http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ICSR-TT-Report.pdf

They are not very optimistic:
The report explains why previous negotiations have repeatedly failed to deliver any success or political breakthrough. It argues that attempts to talk to the Taliban in recent years have been characterised by wishful thinking and a lack of strategic direction.
As one last attempt is made to negotiate with the Taliban, history suggests that a viable or sustainable peace settlement will be extremely difficult to achieve. If there is any chance of success, however, the first thing that negotiators should do is to learn from the failures which have characterised previous efforts at peace talks.

From a short summary on an ICSR Insight:http://icsr.info/2013/06/icsr-insight-talking-to-the-taliban-hope-over-history/


I have now found two similar threads: Negotiating with insurgents? Five posts in 2009 and Pulling Taliban leaders into government? Fifteen posts 2007-2008.

There is a wider, larger thread Reconciliation and COIN in Afghanistan, two hundred posts plus 2008-2013,

06-29-2013, 11:26 AM
The British General Nick Carter, 2ic ISAF, was interviewed this week and stated:
Back in 2002, the Taliban were on the run. I think that at that stage, if we had been very prescient, we might have spotted that a final political solution to what started in 2001, from our perspective, would have involved getting all Afghans to sit at the table and talk about their future...

Acknowledging that it was "easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight", Carter added: "The problems that we have been encountering over the period since then are essentially political problems, and political problems are only ever solved by people talking to each other.

Curiously an observer of the Taliban suggests at one point they were trying to reach out.

Moving to the future General Carter is not unexpectedly optimistic:
What the opponents of the Afghan government now realise is they are likely to be up against capable Afghan security forces who are going to be here in perpetuity and therefore that old adage that 'We have the clocks but the Taliban have the time', has now been reversed. They are now up against security forces who have the time, and they are also Afghan forces … for those reasons I think that there is every chance people will realise that talking is the answer to this problem...

We owe it to all of those who have invested a great deal of effort in what we have been doing here since 2001 to see it through.


06-29-2013, 11:45 AM
The UK PM David Cameron is in Afghanistan on a short visit to the troops, there's no mention of a Karzai encounter and his comments reinforce Nick's. Or do Nick's reinforce the PM's?:wry:

Note a military 'source' refers to extending a UK military presence beyond 2014, to provide:
..close air support, casualty evacuation and logistics to the ANA...

The PM's spokesman says different:
The PM view is that we have done our fair share and it will now be for other ISAF partners to carry the main burden.


07-19-2013, 05:05 PM
Two different viewpoints, First Ben Barry, from IISS (London), he starts with:
For peace to have a chance in Afghanistan, both the Afghan government and Taliban must feel confident that they can negotiate privately, and that the gap between their positions has narrowed sufficiently that they have some common ground on which to do deals.

We often hear that the narrative is important:
Barry observed that an important ‘known unknown’ will be the extent to which the Taliban’s narrative – that they are fighting to expel infidels from Afghanistan – will retain its credibility once US and NATO troops increasingly withdraw from combat operations and tactical mentoring.

Link:http://www.iiss.org/en/iiss%20voices/blogsections/iiss-voices-2013-1e35/july-2013-a513/afghanistan-endgame-474b There is a voice only podcast, one hour long too:https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QTQxS9FzHjc

Secondly, ICSR (London) and the New America Foundation, have issued a paper, which comes to a different conclusion according to KoW review:
The report is sceptical about the value of talking with the Taliban, at least in the manner in which negotiations have been approached to date. There are many reasons for the pessimism: the Taliban is not hierarchical, so there are few leaders who can ‘deliver the movement’; the talks critically do not include the Afghan government; too many actors are involved in the process, producing distortion and ambiguity; and whereas negotiations require lengthy commitments, NATO is rapidly running out of time. Most fundamentally, whereas talks require a ‘mutually hurting stalemate’, NATO does not have a strong enough hand militarily to achieve what they want at the negotiating table.

Link to ICSR report, there is a podcast too:http://icsr.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ICSR-TT-Report.pdf

KoW review by David Ucko:http://kingsofwar.org.uk/2013/07/talking-with-the-taliban-a-new-icsr-report/

07-20-2013, 01:13 AM
David, one thing is for certain. If we cannot negotiate a way to end the fighting any better than the way we prosecuted COIN, we will surely eff it all up as well.

You can bet on it.

07-20-2013, 08:41 PM

History shows that a successful exit from Afghanistan depends on bribery, negotiation, skill and acceptance by those Afghans who can obstruct. Their obstruction can take many forms, not always violent.

A sketchy account of one exit, long ago is:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kandahar#Aftermath

A more detailed history of exiting Afghanistan is being prepared by a British historian, almost "just in time".

To date I have very strong doubts politicians know what needs to be done to reduce our presence, if not exit. Phrases like "See it through" and we "Need a narrative to explain why we're leaving" do not help.

07-21-2013, 03:42 PM
Spot on about those comments not helping. They betray the same degree of hubris and shallow thinking that statements like "Victory for the American people" did during the Operation IRAQI FREEDOM years.

Bill Moore
07-23-2013, 06:20 PM

Recommendation: Don’t look to security structures to provide security amidst political melt-down. The way to wind down U.S. involvement in Afghanistan without the place unraveling behind us is not to focus on military technicalities. It is to take a different approach to the political context.

On negotiations: The idea of a single negotiating track with Taliban leadership was never the right approach to the political context -- for several reasons. The ISI involvement with Taliban leadership may be complex and fraught, but it is deep and effective. It is likely that the ISI started reconstituting the Taliban in late 2002 -- and I watched them doing it -- with precisely the aim of negotiations in mind. They, like us, presumed an insurgency would end in negotiations, and they wanted to drive us there, and then control the outcome. The aim was to regain a degree of the proxy control over Afghanistan that they enjoyed under the Taliban regime. Now, however the relationship may have evolved, the ISI certainly retains enough hold over Taliban leadership to choose who goes to Doha, and what they settle for. And ironically, we have been practically begging Pakistani officials to play that role.

07-23-2013, 08:58 PM
Good catch Bill. I'm sure Sarah Chayes has featured on SWC before.

Parochial interlude:
Meanwhile, northern Helmand is already
re-infested with Taliban, according to both residents and U.S. military personnel.

I hope we don't get hung up in one last effort, as indicated here:
But how to get to zero U.S. troops after 2014 without leaving a black hole behind? How to get to zero responsibly, honoring the efforts and losses of so many, and preserving some potential for the Afghan people and for regional security? The obligation the United States engaged by intervening in the first place – and the historical memory in that region of the U.S. just leaving -- imposes one last effort to think that through.

07-23-2013, 09:58 PM
That's not a surprise at all that an academic would hold that opinion on "one last effort".

It's probably not a surprise to most here that I don't think we owe putting good after bad.