Joe Biden’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, was dispatched back to Qatar to deliver a “blunt” message to the Taliban’s political office in that city. He’s bringing them a warning from the White House, telling them to “not bet on” a military takeover of the country. This effort offers the public a rare glimpse into what’s been going on during these periodic negotiations. Since taking office, the Biden administration has been very secretive about ongoing talks with both the Taliban and Iran. As far as Afghanistan goes, the results speak for themselves. They just took back three more provincial capitals and have two more under siege. So are they going to suddenly start listening to reason now? (Associated Press)
A U.S. peace envoy was back in the Middle East on Tuesday to warn the Taliban not to pursue a military victory on the ground and deliver a blunt message: A Taliban government that comes to power through force in Afghanistan will not be recognized.
The U.S. State Department said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy, was in Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to “help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.”
The development comes amid a weekslong, relentless Taliban offensive as American and NATO forces finalize their pullout from war-torn Afghanistan.
It’s not that this was a poor decision on the part of the White House. It’s always preferable to attempt diplomacy before resorting to anything more drastic. But at the same time, we should be keeping at least one foot in the real world. The Taliban’s office in Qatar is a public relations team and nothing more. They exist to feed positive quotes to the international media and to see what, if anything, they can extract from America and our allies. They have no control over the movement of the Taliban militants back in their country and likely don’t even have direct lines of communication with them.
This is how it’s gone for quite some time now. The public face of the Taliban gives the appearance of negotiating in good faith while their troops continue to do what they always do. With the allies bugging out, the Taliban is retaking the country one chunk at a time. They never had any intention of honoring any agreements they made and it’s always been their plan to wait for the foreigners to leave and get back to business as usual. Sadly, that business will involve slaughtering anyone who worked with the Americans or the government we helped to establish there.
Once Kabul falls, the people paying the heaviest price will likely be the young women and girls of Afghanistan. We already know that the murder of women and children started months ago and is only ramping up now. There is an entire generation of young Afghan women who grew up knowing only a world where the Americans and our allies offered them protection and they came to enjoy additional freedoms and a slightly more western civilization where they could obtain an education and move about more freely. Now they will be forced to fall under strict Islamic codes of dress and conduct or face brutal repercussions, assuming they aren’t simply killed outright.
Sadly, the United States is out of options for the most part. We learned last night that we have deployed some of our biggest warplanes, B-52 bombers and AC-130 gunships, back to Afghanistan in an attempt to slow the Taliban’s advance. Task and Purpose described the move as an effort to “slow the country’s impending collapse.” Those are powerful tools to be sure, but there’s only so much you can accomplish from the air. And the further the Taliban pushes into all of Afghanistan’s cities, the more difficult it is to conduct significant bombing runs without generating massive collateral damage.
The end is approaching and it’s coming far sooner than anyone in the Biden administration publicly predicted. It’s definitely not going to be pretty and we’re going to need full congressional investigations when this is over to determine why the withdrawal wasn’t better organized from the beginning.