Kinder, gentler Taliban: No, we won't work with you to fight ISIS

AP Photo/Zabi Karimi

When we learned yesterday morning that the White House was planning “official talks” with the Taliban on subjects including how to deal with ongoing terrorist threats, I had several questions. One of them was, “We’re going to be talking to a terrorist group about how to quash other terror groups?” Well, we didn’t have long to wait for an answer. Before anyone could even find their seats at the table, a Taliban spokesperson sent a notice to the media saying that they didn’t require our help in rooting out terrorists and they could handle the matter on their own. That’s not to say that we didn’t get anything positive out of the deal, because it turns out we still might. But when it comes to preventing Afghanistan from becoming a launching site for terror attacks on the west, that idea is apparently a non-starter. (The Hill)

The Taliban said on Saturday they will not work with the U.S. to contain extremism in Afghanistan.

Taliban political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press the Taliban will independently deal with extremist groups such as the Islamic State (IS) group.

“We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” Shaheen said, using an Arabic acronym for the group.

The talks are continuing today, but thus far the United States delegation is being very tight-lipped about what happened during the first day of discussions. One thing we did learn is that the official head of the delegation isn’t from the State Department, although they sent people as well. The team is being led by CIA Deputy Director David Cohen. That was done “to signal that the engagement is focused on terrorism.”

That decision left us looking a bit out of touch by the time things got started. We put a high-ranking CIA official in charge of this shindig to show the Taliban we were there to talk about combatting a resurgence of terrorist activity in Afghanistan. But before the meeting even began, the Taliban spokesperson said they weren’t interested and would handle it themselves. So much for that, I guess. It’s believable that the Taliban actually will be working to root out and destroy ISIS-K, particularly since that group took credit for a suicide bombing at a mosque this week that killed more than 40 people. But ISIS-K in Afghanistan is a relatively small presence. The real threat is a resurgent al Qaeda, who remain good buddies with the Taliban and will likely be ready to launch new attacks against the west from there in a matter of months.

The other primary item on the agenda is to discuss getting all of our remaining people out of the country, including the Afghans who assisted us during the war. For a moment this morning, I thought a major breakthrough had been achieved when I saw a headline at CNN stating that we are now expecting up to 9,000 more Afghan evacuees to arrive in the United States this week. But it turns out that those are Afghans who have been stuck in Germany under quarantine since it was discovered that a bunch of them had measles.

Flights of Afghan evacuees from Ramstein Air Base in Germany to the US resumed Saturday after pausing for weeks due to confirmed cases of measles amongst evacuees.

One flight left the base Saturday with a few hundred evacuees headed for Philadelphia, a spokesman for the 86th Airlift Wing told CNN. Five more flights are expected Sunday, with approximately 1,000 evacuees flying to the US on a daily basis until the entire Afghan population of approximately 9,000 at Ramstein departs.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t still come away from this meeting with something. As we previously discussed, Afghanistan is on the verge of a complete financial implosion and their food situation grows increasingly dire as the seasons change. They need help and we need to get the rest of our people out. Perhaps they will be convinced to see the light and speed up the outgoing traffic if we dangle some international food shipments in front of them. I’m sure we’ve already ladled over far too much cash and other resources to the Taliban as it is (on top of the world-class collection of weapons and military vehicles we left for them), but at this point, the country is a write-off anyway. If we have to toss them a few more bones on the way out, that’s probably just going to have to happen, sadly.