Negotiations with the Taliban Have Convinced the Terrorists They Can Win

Last week, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American envoy in Afghanistan, told reporters that his negotiating team was on the cusp of an agreement with the Taliban, and outlined its terms. The U.S., according to Khalilzad, planned to remove its troops from the country in exchange for the Taliban’s promise not to allow it to be used by al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups. Soon thereafter, a series of attacks by the Taliban, which left an American soldier among the dead, drove Washington to suspend negotiations. Michael Rubin argues that no agreement along the proposed lines will bring peace:

President Donald Trump and Khalilzad [appeared] to have embraced the John Kerry school of diplomacy, in which desperation for a deal substitutes for bringing leverage to bear. . . . A more fundamental problem is Pakistan. The Taliban would not exist without Pakistani support. . . . [T]he Taliban negotiators were based in Qatar and answered to leadership in [the Pakistani city of] Quetta which in turn took direction from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence in Islamabad. . . . Most Afghans see the Taliban as foreign puppets . . . willing to rape and murder.

The Taliban [also] continue to embrace and incorporate al-Qaeda’s philosophy and personnel. . . . Nor does what happen in Afghanistan necessarily stay in Afghanistan. [During a discussion of U.S. foreign policy] at the University of Hargeisa in Somaliland earlier this year, students and faculty asked repeatedly whether negotiations with the Taliban would mean that negotiations with Al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, would be next. Even if that is not the plan, every militant group now understands that the way to advance its interests is not through the ballot box but through violence and terrorism. That is a legacy to the Taliban deal which will not be easy to overcome.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Afghanistan, Donald Trump, John Kerry, 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