Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

US Hardline on Taliban Peace Talks

The Obama administration has reportedly taken its first steps toward a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan by exploring the possibility of talks with the Taliban.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

Following serious setbacks to the U.S. military's war plan in Afghanistan, the Barack Obama administration has taken the first tentative step toward a negotiated settlement of the conflict by actively seeking to ascertain the willingness of the Taliban to enter into negotiations, according to a source familiar with the administration's thinking about the issue.

But the administration is still sticking to demands on the Taliban that it knows are not realistic, in a manner that is strikingly similar to the demands stated publicly by the United States in the early stage of the Vietnam War.

Obama has yet to make a crucial political decision to separate a military settlement with the Taliban from the negotiation of a settlement between the Taliban and the Hamid Karzai government, according to the source.

The source confirmed to IPS that the Pakistani military has been in discussions with Taliban leaders and had been sharing its notes of the meetings with U.S. and Saudi officials, as had been reported by or Syed Saleem Shahzad in the Asia Times Sep. 11.

But the source suggested that, contrary to the implication of the Shahzad story, the Pakistani conversations with the Taliban are not aimed at preparing the way for a separate U.S.-Taliban deal. The administration is still in the stage of intensive intelligence gathering, according to the source, rather than conducting an indirect political dialogue with the Taliban leadership separate from contacts between Karzai and the Taliban.

The administration position on peace talks was articulated by Gen. Petraeus in an interview with Katie Couric Aug. 20. "We're not the ones calling the shots," said Petraeus. "At the end of the day those who will determine whether reconciliation goes forward or not are those who lead the Afghan government, and that is why it is appropriate that they lead these efforts&."

Petraeus listed Karzai's conditions for the Taliban to meet for a peace settlement: "They must respect the constitution, lay down weapons, cut off ties with al Qaeda and essentially be willing to be productive members of society."

The source indicated that the Obama administration has not suggested any willingness to agree to a U.S. troop withdrawal in return for a Taliban commitment to reject al Qaeda and to ensure that it will not be able to operate from Afghan soil. Such a troop withdrawal-for-al Qaeda deal could satisfy the U.S. national security interest in the war as articulated by the Obama administration itself.

Contrary to the Shahzad article, the Pakistanis have not conveyed anything to the Taliban as concrete as asking whether the Taliban would agree to a deal under which U.S. troops would evacuate from the south but remain in the north.

The U.S. continues to assert that full U.S. troop withdrawal would only come in conjunction with a settlement between Karzai and the Taliban.

The administration is fully aware that the final settlement in Afghanistan will bear no resemblance to the demand for Taliban submission that is the official U.S.-Karzai position at present, according to the source.

That demand is roughly equivalent to the position taken by the Lyndon Johnson administration in 1965 that the insurgents in South Vietnam could participate in elections if they would "lay down their arms" and "accept amnesty".

The source explained the rationale for maintaining that unrealistic maximalist position as being the belief that it will result in a better deal than going to the U.S. "bottom line" immediately.

Underlying that posture is the assumption that the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan gives the United States significant leverage on the Taliban with regard to the internal settlement with Karzai.

Even if the United States were to withdraw two-thirds of its troops, the source indicated, it would still have such diplomatic leverage, partly because it would increase domestic support for the war, in the same way that President Richard Nixon's withdrawal of troops from Vietnam from 1969 through 1972 made it possible for him to lengthen the war.

In the Pakistani-Taliban talks on a settlement, the Taliban leaders have insisted on a complete U.S. troop withdrawal, according to Shahzad.

The Taliban has also confirmed what had been signaled in an article on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan website last December – that it is prepared to give legal assurances that al Qaeda and other global jihadist organisations would not be allowed to operate in Afghanistan after the war against foreign military forces.

In an interview with IPS last January, Arsalaan Rahmani, a former deputy minister of education in the Taliban regime who participated in a small team that had served as intermediaries between Karzai and the Taliban, said any negotiations between the Taliban and Karzai regime would have to be preceded by agreement with the United States on the key international issues of withdrawal of all foreign troops and the Taliban's renunciation of ties with al Qaeda.

A comment by Gen. David Petraeus on Monday that high-level Taliban figures had "reached out" to Karzai appeared to suggest that the Taliban might be relaxing that position. But Rachmani told IPS he doubted Petraeus's claim of a new Taliban approach to Karzai. He said he would be aware of any such change in the Taliban posture.

Former Taliban foreign ministry official Wahid Muzhda, who follows Taliban policies closely, also told IPS he had not heard of any such move by the Taliban. Muzhda noted that during Eid, the three-day Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan Sep. 9, Taliban spiritual leader Mullah Omar had vowed to continue the war and said the Taliban would "never accept" the current government.

The fact that the administration's thinking about a negotiated settlement has not advanced beyond the stage of maximalist demands suggests that its policy will have to through a series of stages before adjusting fully to the reality that it cannot control the post-occupation politics of Afghanistan.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his book Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnamwas published in 2006.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Although sometimes characterized as a Republican “maverick” for his bipartisan forays into domestic policy, Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is one of the Senate’s more vocal hawks.


Former CIA director Michael Hayden, a stalwart advocate of the Bush-era policies on torture and warrantless wiretapping, has been a vocal critic of Donald Trump


The former GOP presidential candidate and Speaker of the House has been a vociferous proponent of the idea that the America faces an existential threat from “Islamofascists.”


David Albright is the founder of the Institute for Science and International Security, a non-proliferation think tank whose influential analyses of nuclear proliferation issues in the Middle East have been the source of intense disagreement and debate.


A right-wing Christian and governor of Kansas, Brownback previously served in the U.S. Senate, where he gained a reputation as a leading social conservative as well as an outspoken “pro-Israel” hawk on U.S. Middle East policy.


Steve Forbes, head of the Forbes magazine empire, is an active supporter of a number of militarist policy organizations that have pushed for aggressive U.S. foreign policies.


Stephen Hadley, an Iraq War hawk and former national security adviser to President George W. Bush, now chairs the U.S. Institute for Peace.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

The Trump administration appears to have been surprised by this breach among its friends in the critical Gulf strategic area. But it is difficult to envision an effective U.S. role in rebuilding this Humpty-Dumpty.


Print Friendly

A recent vote in the European Parliament shows how President Trump’s relentless hostility to Iran is likely to isolate Washington more than Tehran.


Print Friendly

The head of the Institute for Science and International Security—aka “the Good ISIS”—recently demonstrated again his penchant for using sloppy analysis as a basis for politically explosive charges about Iran, in this case using a faulty translation from Persian to misleadingly question whether Tehran is “mass producing advanced gas centrifuges.”


Print Friendly

Trump has exhibited a general preference for authoritarians over democrats, and that preference already has had impact on his foreign policy. Such an inclination has no more to do with realism than does a general preference for democrats over authoritarians.


Print Friendly

The President went to the region as a deal maker and a salesman for American weapon manufacturing. He talked about Islam, terrorism, Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without the benefit of expert advice in any of these areas. After great showmanship in Riyadh, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, he and his family left the region without much to show for or to benefit the people of that war-torn region.


Print Friendly

Although the Comey memo scandal may well turn out to be what brings Trump down, this breach of trust may have had more lasting effect than any of Trump’s other numerous misadventures. It was an unprecedented betrayal of Israel’s confidence. Ironically, Trump has now done what even Barack Obama’s biggest detractors never accused him of: seriously compromised Israel’s security relationship with the United States.


Print Friendly

Congress and the public acquiesce in another military intervention or a sharp escalation of one of the U.S. wars already under way, perhaps it’s time to finally consider the true costs of war, American-style — in lives lost, dollars spent, and opportunities squandered. It’s a reasonable bet that never in history has a society spent more on war and gotten less bang for its copious bucks.


RightWeb
share