In Its Negotiations with the Taliban, the U.S. Is Repeating Familiar Mistakes

Feb. 12 2019

Late last month, American officials announced that they had agreed upon a framework for a deal with the Taliban that would involve the withdrawal of U.S. troops and a commitment from the Islamist group never to allow terrorists to use territory under their control. Husain Haqqani is pessimistic that such terms will lead to a good outcome:

The very fact that a U.S. presidential envoy has been negotiating with [its leaders] has given the Taliban a degree of legitimacy. Accepting their assurance about not letting terrorists use Afghan soil implies that the terrorist acts perpetrated by the Taliban [itself] and its Haqqani network—including attacks on the U.S. embassy in Kabul and American civilians—are now forgotten and forgiven.

By announcing withdrawal, the Trump administration repeated the folly of the Obama administration. When a superpower signals its desperation to get out of a conflict, the subsequent negotiations are designed only to provide diplomatic cover. The Taliban knows this, which explains its willingness to make promises it does not intend to keep. It has offered similar assurances in the past. Knowing that the Americans are eager to leave enables the Taliban to wait before it marches victoriously into Kabul once again. . . .

The U.S. negotiating position should be to secure the Taliban’s participation in Afghanistan’s political process, not to undo the constitution and the institutions that have evolved over the last seventeen years—and that have produced successes including an improved role for women in society and a growing economy.

Most Afghans believe that the reason for the Taliban’s endurance is not popular support or even battlefront resilience but support from Pakistan. They fear that an Afghan settlement based on concessions to the Taliban and Pakistan would only lead to another war between Afghan patriots and Pakistan’s proxies. Pakistan promised that it wasn’t sheltering Osama bin Laden, and the promises of its proxies, including the Taliban, are no more reliable.

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More about: Afghanistan, Paksitan, Politics & Current Affairs, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy, War on Terror

 

European Aid to the Middle East Is Shaped by a Political Agenda

Feb. 18 2019

The EU’s European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Unit dispenses millions of dollars in economic and humanitarian assistance to dozens of countries every year. Although it claims to operate on principles of strict neutrality, independent of any political motivation and giving priority to the neediest cases, a look at its activities in the Middle East suggests an entirely different approach, as Hillel Frisch writes:

[T]he Middle East is the overwhelming beneficiary of EU humanitarian aid—nearly 1 billion of just over 1.4 billion euros. . . . The bulk of the funds goes toward meeting the costs of assistance to Syrian refugees, followed by smaller sums to Iraq, Yemen, “Palestine,” and North Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa, by contrast, receives less than one-third of that amount. The problem with such allocations is that the overwhelming majority of people living in dire poverty reside in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Bangladesh. . . . The Palestinians, who are richer on average than those living in the poorest states of the world, . . . receive over six euros per capita, while the populations of the poorest states receive less than one-eighth of that amount. . . .

Even less defensible is the EU’s claim to political neutrality. Its favoritism toward the Palestinians on this score is visible as soon as one enters terms into the general search function on the European Commission’s website. Enter “Palestine” and you get 20,737 results. Enter “Ethiopia” and you get almost the same figure, despite massive differences in population size (Ethiopia’s 100 million versus fewer than 5 million Palestinians), geographic expanse (Ethiopia is 50 times the size of “Palestine”), and degree of sheer suffering. The Syrian crisis, which is said to have led to the loss of a half-million lives, merits not many more site results than “Palestine.”

One of the foci of the website’s reports [on the Palestinians] is the plight of 35,000 Bedouin whom the EU assists, often in clear violation of the law, in Area C—the part of the West Bank under exclusive Israeli control. The hundreds of thousands of Bedouin in Sinai, however, the plight of whom is readily acknowledged even by Egyptian officials, gets no mention, even though Egypt is a recipient of EU aid. . . .

Clearly, the EU’s approach to aid allocation has nothing to do with impartiality, true social-welfare needs, or humanitarian considerations. [Instead], it favors allocations to Syrian refugees above Yemeni refugees because of the higher probability that Syrian refugees will find their way to Europe. . . . The recipients of European largesse who are next in line [to Syrians], in relative terms, are the Palestinians. [This particular policy] can be attributed primarily to the EU’s hostility toward Israel, its rightful historical claims, and its security needs.

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More about: Europe and Israel, European Union, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians