Taliban supposedly close to "reduction of violence" deal, but don't buy it

There’s another wrinkle in the seemingly endless tale of America’s longest war. Representatives from the Taliban have issued an ultimatum to Washington, saying they want an answer on their offer to have a seven-day “reduction of violence” in that nation or they’re just going to give up on the negotiations entirely. This is a rather different tone than they were taking only a week ago when our Secretary of State was saying that we were getting close to some sort of deal with them. (Associated Press)

The Taliban have issued an ultimatum to Washington after weeks of talks with a U.S. peace envoy, demanding a reply on their offer of a seven-day reduction of violence in Afghanistan, or they would walk away from the negotiating table, two Taliban officials said Wednesday.

A reduction in violence deal for a very short period is sought by the Taliban because they don’t want to commit to a formal cease-fire until other components of a final deal are in place. They have previously said a cease-fire could blunt their battlefield momentum if the U.S. or Kabul renege on their promises.

The development comes as Washington said late Tuesday that an agreement on the insurgents’ “reduction of violence” offer was days away. Also, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted that he had received a phone call from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo telling him of “notable progress” in the talks with the Taliban.

The Taliban is obviously getting bolder in their demands. Notice that they’re not even offering an actual ceasefire. What does a “reduction of violence” even mean? They’ll only attack our troops on even-numbered days?

Any offer they wind up making probably isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on anyway. There are spokesmen for the Taliban doing the talking, but they don’t control the actions of all of their fighters around the country. And it’s not as if there’s been any reduction in their efforts this year. Only three days ago we lost two more of our troops with an additional six being injured in yet another ambush attack. And it was once again someone wearing the uniform of our supposed allies over there who perpetrated the attack.

It’s hard to watch these developments without getting the sense that the Taliban smells blood in the water and believes that they have the upper hand now. They know that we’re not going to stay in their country forever and we’ve already opened the door to pulling out by starting negotiations with them. They don’t have to offer us very much because they know that we’re going to be leaving sooner or later. And whatever they do offer will almost certainly be reneged on as soon as we’re out of the country.

I have no doubt that the Taliban spokesman is saying that they’ll respect the new government we helped establish, but that’s surely nonsense as well. The moment we’re gone, Ashraf Ghani is probably toast and things will go back to the way they’ve always been in that country. The only real question left to answer is how much of a diplomatic black eye we’re willing to take on the world stage when things completely implode.

But as I’ve written here in the past, it was almost inevitable that this is how the war in Afghanistan would end. Nobody every conquers Afghanistan permanently. And that country’s denizens know full well that all they have to do is wait long enough and the invaders will eventually go home. That’s how it’s always worked in the past.