Give War a Chance

I think that the editors of the Washington Post have the situation in Afghanistan almost completely backwards:

There are two big reasons for doubt about whether negotiations can progress. One is the lopsided terms of the U.S.-Taliban deal, and thus of the balance of power between the two Afghan sides. The United States agreed to withdraw all of its troops from the country by next May, tied only to promises by the Taliban not to target U.S. and other international forces and to break ties with al-Qaeda. The insurgents have not fully delivered on either of those commitments, according to international monitors and U.S. military commanders, and they have continued attacks on governments forces, killing and wounding more than 10,000 since the accord was signed in February.

That noncompliance dovetails with the other fundamental problem, which is the evident desire of President Trump to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan regardless of the circumstances. Having drawn down U.S. troop levels from 12,000 to 8,600 in accordance with the deal, Mr. Trump pushed for another withdrawal before the U.S. presidential election; as a result, the troop count will be down to 4,500 by November. A logical course for the Taliban is to stall on the talks while waiting to see if a reelected Mr. Trump — or former vice president Joe Biden — will complete the pullout unconditionally.

The chance for an Afghan peace will depend on the willingness of the U.S. president to maintain U.S. forces in place until the Taliban show a genuine will to settle. Agreement on a comprehensive cease-fire, along with a definitive break with al-Qaeda, should be preconditions for a full withdrawal. The Taliban has incentives to settle, including a desire for international recognition and aid for future governments. If the United States stands firm, then the peace process it has initiated will have a chance to succeed.

They’ve got it wrong. Any movements in negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are a consequence of U. S. plans to withdraw. Presumably, they’re negotiating the terms of the government’s surrender.

Our invasion of Afghanistan was always ill-conceived. We never intended to remain in Afghanistan forever i.e. colonize and began announcing our ultimate intention to withdraw almost from the moment that the Taliban had been overthrown.

Lest I be accused of Monday morning quarterbacking, I have been saying this since 2001 as has just about everyone who actually knows anything about Afghanistan. The editors on the other hand have been wrong from the very start and still are.

9 comments… add one
  • walt moffett Link

    Are the Taliban interested in international aid and/or recognition? They would be apt to view the first as interference/corrupting and the second as immaterial. Theocrats aren’t interested in going to Davos.

  • Greyshambler Link

    If you had been President Schuler in 2001 I’m not sure you could have bucked the war sentiment. GWB didn’t want to.
    A good case could be made that we should have attacked Saudi Arabia instead.
    If GW had listened to his father we would have kicked A and come home, but he got sucked in and now there’s no graceful way out.
    Still it’s possible Trump will execute that maneuver during the transition.

  • I don’t think we should have attacked Saudi Arabia but I do think we should have started undermining them. What little legitimacy they have is based on control of the Muslim holy places. And they’re not popular in the Muslim world.

    IMO the two most heinous regimes in the world are the Saudi and the Chinese.

  • Greyshambler Link

    The Saudis are the cork in the Wahhabi bottle.
    And the guarantee of world energy supply stability.

  • That’s like saying the submarine captain is responsible for restraining the torpedoes.

  • TarsTarkas Link

    ‘The Saudis are the cork in the Wahhabi bottle.
    And the guarantee of world energy supply stability.’

    The Saudis are the cork, container and the contents of the Wahhabi bottle. Which they’ve sprinkled far and wide across the world and helped radicalize far too many lost souls. I don’t believe in collective guilt, but I’m with Dave, a price ought to be paid by them sometime.

    As for the world energy supply, the Saudis today are at best the guarantor of European fossil fuel supply and maybe world price stability, and even that’s slipping. The days when they could tank the world economy via embargo is gone, Putin wouldn’t take their side like his old bosses used to during the Cold War.

  • Andy Link

    “Are the Taliban interested in international aid and/or recognition?”

    They are – or at least they were historically. When they were in power they clamped down – temporarily – on opium production (their major source of revenue) in an attempt to gain international recognition, especially from Europe. They spent a lot of effort trying to get countries to recognize their legitimacy.

    The Clinton administration was in secret negotiations with them in 200 and attempted to trade recognition for breaking with Al Qaeda and handing over bin Laden. That was a bridge to far for them. It is probably still a bridge too far to break with AQ – their ideology does not allow much room for sacrificing co-religionists for realist ends.

  • TarsTarkas Link

    ‘Lest I be accused of Monday morning quarterbacking, I have been saying this since 2001 as has just about everyone who actually knows anything about Afghanistan.’

    It started out as regime change/punitive expedition and it should have stayed that way. The same way the first Gulf War should have ended, with the takeout of Saddam, then withdrawal. In both cases whoever became the leaders afterwards would have learned not to p**s off the US. Instead the US government chose to impose culture change, which turned into a lucrative racket fueled by boys’ blood, and emboldened our enemies.

  • steve Link

    As I recall, it took almost a year to find Saddam when we invaded so we would have been stuck there for at least a year. Would not have gone well. Not exactly sure how we would have benefitted from taking him out either. Not saying he was a good guy but what did we realistically think was going to replace him? If there is anything I have not liked about our foreign policy in recent years it is the lack of thought about an end game and making plans accordingly.


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