The news today that the United States will begin negotiating with the Taliban will certainly be celebrated in the future Afghanistan as “Taliban Victory Day.” There is a long history of negotiation with the Taliban; in absolutely every case, the Taliban has embraced talks insincerely. Think the Taliban are only interested in Pushtun areas of Afghanistan? Back in 1995, they had agreed in talks not to enter Herat, and yet into that non-Pushtun city they marched. Then, in 1996, they agreed to take part in negotiations about a broad coalition government in Afghanistan. The talks were still ongoing when they seized Kabul and imposed their reign of terror.
The United States also has a long history of negotiation with the Taliban. Between 1995 and 2000, Clinton administration officials—up to and including cabinet-level UN Ambassador Bill Richardson—met with the Taliban on perhaps 30 different occasions. The same individuals with whom President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry now seek negotiations had promised the Clinton team a range of Taliban concessions: giving up Bin Laden, closing terror training camps, and improving women’s rights. The terror attacks of 9/11 should reinforce how sincere the Taliban was in its promises.
The current talks are even more ham-fisted than they were under President Clinton, and under secretaries of state Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright. From France24’s report:
The officials said the US and Taliban representatives will hold bilateral meetings, then it is expected that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s High Peace Council will follow up with its own talks a few days later.
After billions of dollars and hundreds of lives lost to promote the idea that the Afghan government was in charge and Hamid Karzai was legitimate, with one fell swoop the Obama team is cutting Karzai out of the equation. On the one hand, no one should be sorry to see Karzai go, but on the other hand, the US strategy appears to be to delegitimize Karzai, promote the Taliban, and provide no alternative.
Let no one say that Afghanistan has become Vietnam. In terms of results—and diplomatically-inflicted wounds—the forthcoming Taliban talks will make Afghanistan far worse than the aftermath of our war in Southeast Asia almost four decades ago.