The U.S. Is about to Secure a Bad Deal with the Taliban

Eager to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, the U.S. has been conducting negotiations with the Taliban, and may be close to finalizing an agreement. Although the details are not yet known, the impending agreement extracts a promise from the Taliban not to allow the territory under its control once again to become a home base for terrorists who will attack the U.S. Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio argue that, on the contrary, the deal will lead to a resurgent al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS).

Afghanistan is, today, already home to international terrorist groups. Both Islamic State and al-Qaeda fight and train throughout the country. The Taliban have no control over Islamic State’s regional arm, which operates across the Afghan-Pakistani border and has ties to the self-declared caliphate’s mothership in Iraq and Syria. Although there may be some episodic cooperation between the two sides, IS loyalists clash regularly with their jihadist counterparts in the Taliban. And IS rejects the Taliban’s legitimacy, so it will not abide by any agreement struck with the U.S. Thus, the Taliban cannot guarantee that they will hold Islamic State’s global ambitions in check.

More important, there is no reason to think the Taliban want to hold al-Qaeda’s global agenda in check. And this is where [the U.S. diplomat Zalmay] Khalilzad’s credulity becomes especially problematic. . . . As the United Nations Security Council found in two recent reports, al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain “closely allied” and their “long-standing” relationship “remains firm.” Al-Qaeda’s leaders still view Afghanistan as a “safe haven,” and their men act like a force multiplier for the insurgency, offering military and religious instruction to Taliban fighters. Indeed, al-Qaeda is operating across multiple Afghan provinces, including in areas dominated by the Taliban.

Read more at Politico

More about: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood