FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Negotiating an Afghan Agreement?

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

 

More articles by:

Brian M Downing is a political-military analyst, author of The Military Revolution and Political Change and The Paths of Glory: Social Change in America from the Great War to Vietnam, and co-author with Danny Rittman of  The Samson Heuristic. He can be reached at brianmdowning@gmail.com (Copyright 2015 Brian M Downing) 

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail