NYT: Obama leaning towards talks with Taliban leaders

Not quite yet — there’s still the little matter of cleaning out Kandahar to attend to — but if that operation goes according to plan, then maybe. Here’s what I’ll say in semi-defense of this. If you think the Taliban leadership would accept peaceful co-existence with Karzai, then now’s the right time to lean on them. They’ve been run out of Marja and, presumably, will soon be run out of Kandahar; they’ve lost a bunch of top people to raids by Pakistani intel and U.S. drone attacks, with more doubtless to come; and they’re allegedly getting tired of Al Qaeda. The goal always is to negotiate from a position of strength, and this is as strong as we’ve been in awhile. The question, simply, is whether you think negotiations will achieve something meaningful and lasting.


I’m highly skeptical.

President Obama met with his war cabinet on Friday, and the issue of reconciling with the Taliban is gaining traction, even as administration officials debate whether the time is right…

“It is now more a question of ‘when’ than a question of ‘if,’ ” the administration official said, when asked about the idea of reconciliation talks with senior Taliban officials…

But both officials added that, for now, there are no plans for reaching out soon to high-ranking Taliban leaders. That effort, they said, is likely to wait until after the United States takes on Taliban insurgents in Kandahar in what is expected to be the next major military offensive in Afghanistan…

Mr. Gates, traveling in Afghanistan this week, said that despite the success of the Marja offensive, it was too early to expect reconciliation with some senior Taliban members, cautioning not to get “too impatient.” He said that Taliban leaders would not be interested until “they see that the likelihood of their being successful has been cast into serious doubt,” adding, “My guess is they’re not at that point yet.”

My guess is they’ll never be at that point, at least in the sense of being willing to make a commitment to peace that they’ll keep. They will, quite possibly, reach the point where they’re willing to engage in a phony reconciliation, just as tribal chiefs were willing to reach “truces” with Musharraf again and again vowing that they’d keep jihadis out of the tribal areas in return for sovereignty. Surprisingly, they lied, and they’ll lie again if only to give The One the political cover he needs to start drawing down. Which brings us to this amazing statement made today by Pakistan’s foreign minister:


President Obama’s plan to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan in July 2011 has emboldened terrorists and increased distrust of U.S. intentions in the region, Pakistani Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Thursday.

“The administration’s withdrawal date was music to the ears of the militants and terrorists,” Qureshi said in an exclusive interview with The Washington Examiner. “This sends the wrong signal, and you will have chaos and confusion in Afghanistan if this comes to fruition.”

Meeting with a reporter in his Islamabad office, Qureshi said, “If we walk away sort of leaving things half-baked, that could be the worst thing you could have done to regional stability.”…

An Afghan official with knowledge of current military operations in Afghanistan told The Examiner that the announcement of a planned withdrawal date made the people of his country apprehensive about openly supporting the U.S.-led NATO mission.

I was under the impression that the withdrawal timeframe was music to the ears of Pakistan since it gave them hope that their Taliban proxy would soon be back on the march in Afghanistan and threatening Kabul. To have their own foreign minister now warning Obama not to leave is … perplexing. Either Qureshi is blowing all kinds of smoke or, perhaps, the Pakistani posture towards the Taliban really has changed. But in that case, barring any prospect of near(ish)-term American withdrawal, the only incentive the Taliban has to engage in conciliation talks is if they really, truly fear they’ll be annihilated. With plenty of them still left in Pakistani cities like Karachi and Quetta, how likely is that? In which case, why talk?


I’ve linked it a bunch of times before but if you’ve never read Bill Roggio’s and Thomas Joscelyn’s analysis of why Al Qaeda will flourish wherever the Taliban exists, read it now. Seriously.

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Ed Morrissey 4:41 PM on September 29, 2023