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December 11, 2009

Comments

It will be interesting to see whether the Taliban are more open to accomodation in Afghanistan than the GOP is in the US.

--TP

This all makes sense to me. I'd add that, even those negotiations that don't lead to agreements can "bear fruit" if Omar's intransigence creates pressure on fractures within the Taliban, leading to more factions breaking ranks to negotiate separate deals.

I'd say this: it was foolish to think that you could shatter and reassemble Afghan politics without any representation for the Taliban, when prior to the shattering the Taliban had enough support that they had been able to form a semi-stable government. Sentiments like that don't just fade away. The Taliban was not an anti-US resistance force prior to our invasion and its ideology did not revolve around attacking the US; it was a domestic political movement that made the mistake of giving safe harbor to someone from a group that was devoted to attacking the US.

We might not like their ideas on how to govern one little bit, and we might want to punish them for their mistake in harboring bin Laden, but unless we're willing to pretty much commit genocide we can't kill every last Taliban member & supporter. And the governing philosophy of the Taliban is not sufficiently discredited that they can be disregarded as a political force.

This was the mistake in equating one political force in a country with a mortal enemy of the US: you cannot eliminate a political force through military means without killing every adherent - and probably not even that way. Political movements only die when they discredit themselves in government, or appear radically inferior to other political movements. And while it seems clear that a majority of Afghans prefer the new government to the old, there's a very significant minority who liked it just fine the way it was before the US arrived - and we are not going to find military or political stability until we find a way to incorporate the Taliban and their supporters into the new government.

Defeating and disarming them in a nation like Afghanistan does not seem to be a viable strategy. And because the Taliban are a political movement, even if disarmed, if they are not granted some official political representation, they will seek to rebuild and rearm. The only way to prevent it would be a vicious campaign of political persecution.

Imagine the US if one of the parties - doesn't matter which - was militarily crushed by an invading army. Even if that political party had ruled with great brutality, and canceled elections, so that most people hated them even more than the invaders, and even if the crushing of that party's supporters was quite effective, do you think that there wouldn't still be a significant minority left in the US who wouldn't still believe in that party's governing philosophy? And do you think they'd be satisfied with complete exclusion from the political process after those invaders reconstituted the government? People would still be Democrats or Republicans. An external force wouldn't change that identification. Nor is going to do so in Afghanistan.

I think Jacob makes very good points here and expresses them better than I've been able to.

The military would need to kill a very large number of people to destroy a political movement by force of arms alone.

Better to involve the Taliban politically (on condition of demilitarization) and let them either serve the people or lose influence. Taliban-in-government would need to choose between supporting Al Qaeda and providing wells, electricity, and roads -- I think I know which the voters would prefer. (Unfortunately the Karzai government's recent election fraud seriously undermines this possibility.)

"We will support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens," Obama said. "And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect -- to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron."

I think Obama's strategy involves including Taliban who aren't trying to destroy the current government (meaning the governmental structure, not Karzai). It was a blow to everyone that the elections were fraudulent, but if in the coming months, the country can be made less chaotic, perhaps there will be room for a government that the people support to take power.

It was a blow to everyone that the elections were fraudulent, but if in the coming months, the country can be made less chaotic, perhaps there will be room for a government that the people support to take power.

I hope by "blow" you mean "cause of damage", not "surprise", because if you look at reports of the prior election, to say nothing of the Loya Jirga way back when, Karzai committing electoral fraud is right up there with sunrises in terms of unpredictability.

It is quite significant for tamping down perceptions of militants as legitimate if there is even just token representation of the ideology they espouse in the government, versus if there is none, and such ideology is identified by the government as explicitly hostile to the state (even if it is in fact just that).

None of these grand schemes actually deal with the reality of
fghan history. This article is worth every student of the wars time...

http://usacac.army.mil/CAC2/MilitaryReview/Archives/English/MilitaryReview_20091231_art004.pdf

mind you, its "fix"- one actually thought thru, has no more chance of "working" than it does in being implemented.
We've killed far too many people. It won't be forgotten, nor should it be.
The sole question: how many Afghans will we kill before we leave?

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/15/world/asia/15haqqani.html

Why isn't this just the end of the thing?

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