There has been a lot of breastbeating in the media about Trump’s cancellation of a planned meeting with representatives of the Taliban at Camp David. We don’t really know if such meetings were actually scheduled but let’s suppose they were. Commentary has tended to fall into one of three categories:
- If Trump does it, it must be wrong.
- We should never negotiate with the Taliban under any circumstances.
- We should negotiate with the Taliban but the timing was wrong.
My own view is that putting boots on the ground in Afghanistan was stupid. As soon as we did so and brought down the Taliban government, we became the “occupying power” under international conventions to which we are a party with certain obligations—obligations that would be difficult or impossible to satisfy. We did need to respond forcefully but I don’t think we should ever have become the occupying power. Americans didn’t have the stomach for my preferred solution.
All of that is water under the bridge. We still have troops in Afghanistan with a primary mission of counter-insurgency, i.e. fighting the Taliban in the futile hope that a non-Taliban Afghan government will be able to stand on its own.
Should Trump be negotiating with the Taliban? When? What should the objectives of such a negotiation be?