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.

Welcome to Mosaic

Register now to get two more stories free

Register Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Foreign Policy

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

The Logic of Iran’s Global Terror Strategy

During the past few weeks, the Islamic Republic has brutally tried to crush mass demonstrations throughout its borders. In an in-depth study of Tehran’s strategies and tactics, Yossi Kuperwasser argues that such domestic repression is part of the same comprehensive strategy that includes its support for militias, guerrillas, and terrorist groups in the Middle East and further afield, as well as its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Each of these endeavors, writes Kuperwasser, serves the ayatollahs’ “aims of spreading Islam and reducing the influence of Western states.” The tactics vary:

Sign up to read more

You've read all your free articles for this month

Register

Sign up now for unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Iran, Latin America, Terrorism, U.S. Foreign policy