FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Negotiating an Afghan Agreement?

by BRIAN M. DOWNING

Reports out of Pakistan and now London suggest that Afghanistan, NATO, and the Taliban will seek a negotiated settlement. Reliable confirmation, however, has not been forthcoming. If meaningful talks begin, it will be welcome news. If they do not, they should be. Both sides face interminable war and must look for a negotiated settlement.

Though the various insurgent groups (Taliban, Hizb-i Islami, the Haqqani network, and other minor groups) have been spreading throughout the Pashtun regions, the war is stalemated. Insurgent gains in the South and East are only setting the stage for another civil war between the Pashtuns and the various other peoples fated to inhabit Afghanistan. Inasmuch as the latter groups are supported not only by the West but also by Russia, Iran, and India, the Taliban can never control the country to the extent it once did. They face endless war should they try.

Western forces are not facing bandits or fanatics. They are facing resourceful insurgents who have become deeply embedded in Pashtun regions. Ground engagements have become fewer (especially in winter months) and the IED has become central in the insurgents’ effort to wear away western resolve. Though US forces have at last taken counter-insurgency seriously, the historical evidence and counter-insurgency doctrines themselves suggest that such campaigns take a decade or more to reverse momentum, if they ever do. And resolve in western publics is slipping rapidly.

Secret talks have worked in the recent past. US, Saudi, and Iranian back-channel talks were far more responsible than Gen Petraeus’s 2007 surge in reducing the Iraq insurgency. The abruptness of the decline in violence, though welcome, was not at all in keeping with counter-insurgency experience and makes anyone familiar with guerrilla warfare look for another explanation. Secret talks began in 2006 and led to: Sunni-Arab insurgents stopped fighting the US and Shia militias; Iran reined in the Shia militias it supported; Iran prevailed upon Shia politicians to end their infighting and form a government; and the US ceased its threats to bomb Iran. Fighting dropped markedly, political bargains came about, and oil began to flow from Basra once more. It was a triumph of negotiation, not counter-insurgency.

Dialog between the US and the Taliban could give each side much of what it seeks, without one side overtly winning, without a decade or more of fighting.

The West gets:

–The Taliban restrict their ambitions to provinces in the South and East and to a handful of cabinet posts.

–The Taliban break with if not help kill al Qaeda leadership, and never allow it in its areas of control.

–The Taliban agrees never to support, directly or indirectly, the Kashmir conflict in India.

The Taliban get:

–The West withdraws all military forces from the country.

–The West guarantees that drone aircraft and other weapon systems will not target the Taliban as long as they abide by the agreement.

–The West funds reconstruction programs in Afghanistan, including Taliban-controlled areas, channeled through the government in Kabul. This will help restore a balance between Kabul and various regions of the country – a balance upon which periods of tranquility and prosperity have rested.

There is, of course, no guarantee that a negotiated settlement can be reached in Afghanistan, as the Taliban might well feel that victory is within reach and the US will be loth to appear to have negotiated with the Taliban. But the stalemate there is at least conducive to bargain-making. And seeking a negotiated settlement would be a bold and thoughtful departure from the timid and dreary neglect of the last eight years.

BRIAN M. DOWNING is the author of several works of political and military history, including The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: War and Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam. He can be reached at: brianmdowning@gmail.com

 

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail