U.S. in Afghanistan: Of course we negotiate with terrorists

Be afraid.

In a sign of the surreality into which we have descended under the Obama administration, the media have been reporting with a straight face that the U.S. will shortly begin talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, and that President Obama calls the agreement for the talks an “important first step toward reconciliation.”

To recap: in October 2001, U.S. forces entered Afghanistan to depose the terrorist Taliban regime, which had given the 9/11 attackers some of their most important support.  From that day to this, the Taliban have not changed their stripes.  They are still terrorists.  They intimidate and murder Afghan and Pakistani civilians, in their quest to retain a brutal control over territory in both nations.  They regularly attack U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.  Their interest in “reconciliation” is exactly what it has been since 2001: an interest in regaining control of Afghanistan, ideally without having to meet NATO forces in battle.

The announcement of talks with the Taliban coincided with a rocket attack by the Taliban on the U.S. air base at Bagram, in which four of our servicemen were killed.  The Taliban promptly took credit for the attack; shortly before it, Mullah Omar, the leader of the Quetta Shura Taliban in Pakistan, promised that he would retake Kabul “within a week” of the U.S. troop pull-out, scheduled for completion by the end of 2014.

It is thus not clear what there is to talk about, in terms of U.S. interests.  We know what the Taliban want.  If we are looking for common ground with them, the only option is to modify our position.

Karzai obsessed with nameplates?

If you were wondering whether the Hamid Karzai government would lose confidence in us because of this move, wonder no more.  Once the Taliban talks were announced, Karzai suspended negotiations on the future status of U.S.-Afghan relations, and threatened to boycott any talks with the Taliban.  The State Department rushed out with a statement that – notwithstanding President Obama’s hopes for reconciliation – no talks with the Taliban had been confirmed.  But today, State Department officials are telling CBS that talks are back on.  Secretary Kerry reportedly got on the phone with Karzai to assure him that the U.S. has no intention of recognizing an official status for the Taliban.

Which means, of course, that any talks will be meaningless, and therefore should not be held at all.  To crown the surreal moment in news reporting, CBS and other outlets are characterizing the dust-up as if it revolves – by implication, foolishly – around the “nameplate” the Taliban have chosen to use.  The sign outside the Taliban’s office in Qatar – yes, the Taliban now have an office in Qatar – describes its mission as representing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the Taliban government we removed in 2001.

It’s not actually psychotic or even bipolar of Mr. Karzai to object to that, and to decline to negotiate with the Taliban on that basis.  CBS reports this detail in a breezy, dismissive manner, however, as if it’s all a humorous example of diplomatic color, like the Obama-Putin standoff over the gym in Northern Ireland.

Just a short time ago, the UK Guardian updated its reporting to indicate that the talks with the Taliban have now definitely been cancelled, after “a diplomatic row about the Taliban’s new Qatar office.”  It does tend to quash the enthusiasm for talks when one party falsely proclaims itself to be a sovereign “emirate,” and thus to be a competitor with another party for the same sovereignty.

In a way, it’s good that the media simply act as mindless repeaters for whatever comes out of the Obama administration.  We can be certain that what we’re getting from them is Pure Obama.  The mainstream media apply little to no critical thought to what they obediently relay from Obama’s executive team.

Situation growing dicey in Afghanistan

But there is good reason for concern about the path of surreality we are on.  Recall that the drawdown of the total ISAF force has begun already.  As we speak, the Brits are pulling out nearly half of their force, which comprised about 9,500 troops at the end of 2012.  This week, security services for the NATO forces in Afghanistan, as well as for local governments throughout the country, have been turned over officially to the Afghans.

Unfortunately, as the U.S. Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction, John F. Sopko, pointed out in May, our personnel goal for Afghan security-force training has never been met, and the Pentagon’s own latest figures indicate the number is down about 4,700 this year from what it was last year.  The standard of readiness has been lowered over time as well:

A Government Accountability Office report released in February said … that a claimed improvement in the effectiveness of Afghan security forces has been partly due to the lowering of standards by U.S.-led forces.  In August 2011, U.S. military officials changed the highest possible rating for Afghan units from “independent,” meaning they could operate without help from U.S. or coalition troops, to “independent with advisors,” the GAO said.

But conditions are already getting worse in Afghanistan, as the Red Cross warned in April.  Following a late-May attack on its office in Jalalabad, the Red Cross pulled some of its personnel out of the country.

Britain’s Lt. Gen. Nick Carter, commanding the UK troops in Afghanistan, warns that an increase in Taliban attacks should be expected:

“There’s definitely a sense that the Taliban would like to appear to compel the international community’s withdrawal, and certainly ISAF’s withdrawal,” said Carter, who leaves Afghanistan next month to become head of the British Army.

During a trip to Afghanistan this month, the UK Defense Minister, Philip Hammond, helpfully compared Britain’s experience in Afghanistan with that of the United States in Vietnam.

The U.S. force level is to drop from 66,000 to about 32,000 by early 2014.  We should be clear that with this reduction in the force level, it will not be possible for U.S. forces to mount an offensive while also holding territory elsewhere, when the Taliban retake strongholds in southern Afghanistan.  The full extent of the drawdown is still being negotiated with the Afghans; the talks Karzai suspended this week had that point on the agenda. 

A key vulnerability for NATO forces will continue to be their lines of supply, and we can expect increased attacks there as well.  Supply lines are a vexed issue for NATO in Afghanistan; in the last five years, Pakistan has frequently closed the Khyber Pass to NATO supplies (see here, here, and here as well).  Islamabad uses supply-line closures to make points with the U.S. when we launch drone strikes into Pakistan.

NDN IISS graphic at BBC
Simplified schematic of the NDN (IISS graphic via BBC)


Since late 2008, the logistics alternative to convoys from Pakistan has been the “Northern Distribution Network,” or NDN, which relies on transit through the former-Soviet “Stans” of Central Asia.  But a big hole will open up in the NDN in mid-2014.  Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted overwhelmingly today (20 June) to terminate its lease of Manas Air Base to the United States when it expires on 11 July 2014.  Although Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, is closer to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan has been much more reliable in terms of customs practices and ease of logistic movement (see here as well).  The base at Manas, a two-hour flight from Kabul, has been the key hub into Afghanistan for the NDN; there is no location that can replace it in this role.

Manas is also used routinely to refuel support aircraft – intelligence and surveillance, airborne control, tankers – operating over Afghanistan.  Its loss will be felt keenly in that regard.

It is not too early to predict that the situation for our troops in Afghanistan will be substantially worse a year from now, if we remain on our current policy course.  There will not be enough of them in country for anything but defensive operations, and their combat support resources will be available only through a set of very vulnerable pipelines.

Everyone else can foresee that.   If the Taliban don’t have us over a barrel now, they have every prospect of it by mid-2014, and they know it.  In light of this, it is breathtakingly stupid to seek talks with them today.  The Taliban have never acted in a conciliatory manner; there is no basis for a hope that they can be talked into a meaningful power-sharing arrangement under today’s conditions.  It doesn’t really even matter why Team Obama is doing this.  What matters is that it’s being done.  The signal has been sent: the Obama administration not only plans to leave a vulnerable troop contingent in Afghanistan in a worsening situation, but it is foolish enough – vainglorious enough? – to think it can negotiate with the Taliban.

Sadly, Obama is arranging for U.S. policy to be held hostage not merely by the Taliban and Pakistan, but by Russia and even Iran as well.  The NDN depends absolutely on Russia’s quiescence.   Meanwhile, the Iranian border with Afghanistan can be a vulnerability for Iran, or it can be one for U.S. forces: the difference lies in our force posture.  Transitioning to hunkered down, defensive operations will change the dynamic in the whole region.  The current uncertainty about what the U.S. troop presence will actually look like by the end of 2014 only amplifies the negative dynamic trend.

In these circumstances, it will probably be best if U.S. forces are entirely withdrawn, rather than lingering in a strategic twilight, with enemies proliferating around them but no executable guidance for their mission.  What “might have been” in Afghanistan – as in Iraq – is not on the table now, with our current commander-in-chief.  It was never inevitable that the United States be chased from Afghanistan in a cloud of terror, and it still isn’t.  But conditions are ripening for a Taliban attempt to hand us a spectacular tactical defeat, perhaps some time in early 2015 – if not before – and thus to make us turn tail.  An American president who actually seeks negotiations with them, while holding a weak hand that is largely of his own making, is just the president the Taliban will be prepared to try that on.

J.E. Dyer’s articles have appeared at Hot Air, Commentary’s “contentions,Patheos, The Daily Caller, The Jewish Press, and The Weekly Standard online. She also writes for the new blog Liberty Unyielding.

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25 thoughts on “U.S. in Afghanistan: Of course we negotiate with terrorists”

  1. Regarding U.S. ground supply lines in Afghanistan, as they are often operated by local contractors they can also provide an excellent opportunity for exploitation by the INS to secure finance.

    Regarding the Putin/Obama gym kerfuffle, what a symbol! BHO uses some girly machines while Putin swims an icy lake. BHO is lucky Putin didn’t invite him to a few throws on the judo mat.

    1. … one more thing … who can blame the Afghans, from Kharzai for hedging their bets? We are clearly telegraphing that any Afghan who supports us will be in line for the same fate as our Sahwa allies in Iraq and South Vietnamese allies a generation ago.

      1. Karzai is a dead man walking and he knows it. Under Obama, anyone who supports us can be counted upon to sooner or later be left to twist in the wind.

        In a devastating appraisal of Obama, Columnist George Will comments upon Putin’s having taken Obama’s measure; “In Northern Ireland before going to Berlin, Obama sat next to Putin, whose demeanor and body language when he is in Obama’s presence radiate disdain.” (my emphasis) Russian’s have no respect for weak men in strong man roles.

        Obama’s ROE’s in Afghanistan have allowed the Taliban to take Obama’s measure as well and they know ‘the game is in the bag’, that not too much longer they’ll be able to stick a fork in Obama and declare him done.

  2. “Independent with advisors” What kind of double speak is that?

    Independent is independent. The word, like “pregnant” or “dead” is quite descriptive and clear. Making the word “independent” conditional to the influence of others voids its meaning. Only politicians [spit!] and diplomats [spit! spit! Gag!] would award that word a meaning besides its intended one.

    So, tell me again what the meaning of “IS” is…?

    1. On the issue of negotiating with the Taliban, here is my opinion:

      1. Our official policy has always been that we will NOT negotiate with terrorists.
      2. We did that already once before when our elected administration sat down with Arafat. That silly exercise in futility failed because the terrorists were rather inflexible in their thinking. Those talks were led by Clinton, another democrat charmer.
      3. Which brings me to this point. Negotiating with terrorists is somewhat like trying to convince a rapist or a child molester that abstinence is the better path. You might think and pretend to others that you are acting in good faith and for a good cause but you are only wasting time and soiling whatever room you use for the purpose. The best you can hope for is a photo-op or, maybe, some stupid peace prize.
      4. There is only one reason in my mind why this is being considered and that would be Obama’s knee-jerk reaction to anything that tarnishes his “savior” image; so, in keeping with his style of leadership, he is looking for a strong soporiphic with which to put the American public back to sleep. The low information voters will love it and so will Mullah Omar but our country will be the worst off for it.

  3. The only way we would have prevailed in Afghanistan was to colonize it with our own commercial interests and settlers. Our ideology precludes such acts. The Chinese have no such inhibitions. Mining operations are just the beginning, in the upcoming fifty years China will attempt to make Afghanistan a Chinese province. Let them duke it out with the Warlord Tribes, Indians, Pakistanis and Iranians.

    We should get the hell outta there pronto.

    “Let Allah sort it out” there too.
    – S. Palin

    1. I can’t agree that we could have colonized Afghanistan with our own commercial interests and settlers. Nor will China turn Afghanistan into a Chinese province. To pacify Afghanistan requires taking on the entire Muslim world and decisively defeating them, which we are not going to do until they start nuclear terrorist attacks upon our cities.

      1. Well I do hope the Chinese at least try,. It’ll keep both parties gainfully employed for a good long time.

    1. Of even more impact will be the Israeli natural gas fields. Tamar, the first discovered field has an estimated capacity of 8.5 trillion cubic feet and Leviathan has an estimated capacity of 18 trillion cubic feet, and may come on line before the expected 2016 date. Surveys suggest that the combined total of Tamar and Leviathan is only one fifth of the amount in the Levantine Basin, much of which is within Israeli jurisdiction.

      There are also “prospects of a major oil shale or “kerogen” facility, different from shale oil, in Israel discovered in 2009. This is the Shfela Basin, southeast of Jerusalem, which is said to contain 250 billion barrels of pre-oil hydrocarbons contained in cylinders of rock. However, though Rupert Murdoch and Jacob Rothschild are investing in it, it is not clear at the moment if oil can be produced there on a commercial scale. Exploitation of this shale becomes more likely if the price of liquid oil rises. Production at Shfela would transform Israel into a superpower in the energy field.”
      Israel’s challenge will be keeping these resources safe from terrorist attacks. But yes, definitely a step in the right direction.

      1. Its the access to the Israeli fields (and Cyprus’s secure location, the EU cover) that make the LNG operation economical GB. This is essentially a Cypriot-Israeli joint venture. I’m smiling, today, at least.

        Now, if I could just fix the Lebanese and Syrian issues…. 🙂

  4. Ah but it was inevitable that the United States be chased from Afghanistan in a cloud of terror and that the Taliban would hand us a spectacular tactical defeat, making us turn tail and run… because under Obama, these colors do run.

    The US-Taliban talks in Doha represent the West’s Capitulation in Afghanistan

    Obama had no intention of implementing democracy, safeguarding human rights or fostering responsible governance in Afghanistan.

    “The United States has signaled that the Taliban will be allowed to do what it wants as long as it refrains from allowing international terrorists to seek refuge in the areas it controls.”

    The Taliban still have utter disregard for the rights of women and minorities. “Human Rights Watch is already painting a grim picture of the future of women’s rights in the country, and Amnesty International is complaining about extensive violations of human rights. In its annual report, the latter said that women and girls are already being subjected to particular and repeated violence.”

    The Taliban are already cutting off children’s heads.

    Karzai is a dead man walking and he knows it.

    The Taliban will be in control of the entire country by early 2015.

    The US has dropped demands that the Taliban renounce al-Qaeda to allow talks to progress.

    “We support a political and peaceful solution that ends Afghanistan’s occupation, and guarantees the Islamic system” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid

    1. “The US has dropped demands that the Taliban renounce al-Qaeda to allow talks to progress.”

      Of course we have. It would be rather odd if we didn’t. After all we’re arming al-Qaeda, directly or indirectly, in Syria (and elsewhere), whether we admit it or not.

      It’s disgusting.

      1. Not just disgusting… (it is, extremely) It is fundamentally insane. Barking mad might be a more appropriate description.

        The Regime is an agglomeration of odd Leftist ideals mixed with fecklessness and purposelessness. It has no “One” particular leader, and Oboingo is but a figurehead propped up and marketed to a mass audience like cheap soap… just add more perfume and call the same old stuff “New and Improved”… The fools flock to buy it.

        It did the exact opposite of what needed to be done. We needed a long term large basing agreement and assistance command in Iraq, and we needed a light footprint… mailed fist in Afghanistan. (I know that sounds like an incongruity, but a light footprint requires application of maximum violence at tactically appropriate times to achieve strategic control.)

        Of course the idiots on the Left abandoned Iraq because it was difficult, and latched on to Afghanistan because it looked easy and “over”; thus preserving the appearance of security.

        Everyone with any common sense knew that as soon as OBL was killed, the Dems would start slashing Defense, and quickly tuck tail and run. (Guess if they’d have been in charge of the PTO in WWII that they’d have folded up the tents and headed home after Yammamoto’s plane was shot down over Bougainville.)

        OBL was a irrelevant by mid 2002, and by mid 2004 he might as well have taken a dirt nap, because he was impotent. Killing one general does not win a war.

        They will hit us and hurt us on the way out. The “agreements” that they sign are meaningless, because they are Muslims and are NOT socio-religiously obliged to abide by anything agreed to with an infidel.

        This is merely a final act in their plan to wait out the morons who messed all of this up, and then told the world when we were going to lose.

        This is going to be painful, and ultimately we will have to go back… and we will be in far worse shape militarily.

        Losing is always worse when you quit when you could have won.


        1. “It is fundamentally insane.”

          Only if your goal is the protection of Americans.

          Everyone (except for senile McCain) knows that arming Syrian ‘rebels’ will result in al Qaeda acquiring more deadly weapons. If Assad is toppled, the al Qaeda and Muslim Brotherhood will acquire Assad’s armory.

          Evidence has emerged that al Qaeda already has the most feared conventional terrorist weapon; man-portable shoulder-fired ground-to-air missiles.

          “The 26-page document in Arabic, recovered by The Associated Press in a building that had been occupied by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in Timbuktu, strongly suggests the group now possesses the SA-7 surface-to-air missile, known to the Pentagon as the Grail, according to terrorism specialists. And it confirms that the al-Qaida cell is actively training its fighters to use these weapons, also called man-portable air-defense systems, or MANPADS, which likely came from the arms depots of ex-Libyan strongman Col. Moammar Gadhafi.”

          It’s just a matter of time till they are smuggled into the U.S., most probably through container shipping. Once they do, passenger airliners will start blowing up and civilian air travel will effectively cease. Martial law will follow. And Obama will have a crisis that he shall not let go to waste.

  5. ” The “agreements” that they sign are meaningless, because they are Muslims and are NOT socio-religiously obliged to abide by anything agreed to with an infidel.”
    The record of the US itself in honoring treaty commitments is hardly exemplary, not only in the disgraceful history of its relations with native Americans but also in various trade agreements with supposedly friendly countries.

  6. For Optcon

    Russian Federation formally files request for the temporary stationing of fighter aircraft on the Republic of Cyprus. Government replies positively provided that stationing is on a temporary basis.

    “Moscow’s request will be treated as with other friendly counties” -FM Kasoulides

    Add that to the temporary naval agreements already secured.

    1. PS

      Menagh military airbase siege by “rebel/terrorists reportedly breached by Syrian goverment ground forces with the assistance of Kurdish fighters. The active involvement of the Kurds adds yet another dimension. Al-Nursa sustained significant casualties. Siege not yet totally broken

  7. In case a reminder was necessary.


    It’s not just the Orthodox Christian denominations suffering in the Ummah.

    “The world must know that supporting the gunmen by the west help extremists kill the Syrians”. “With such stances, not a single Christian will remain in the East.”- Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custos of the Holy Land in Jerusalem

    As hardly a Christian was left in Anatolia a century ago..

  8. A bit off-topic but certainly related, new evidence of Egyptian government involvement in Beghazi; Libyan Intelligence: Muslim Brotherhood, Morsi Involved in U.S. Consulate Attack

    “According to a Libyan intelligence document, the Muslim Brotherhood, including Egyptian President Morsi, were involved in the September 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, …It discusses the preliminary findings of the investigation, specifically concerning an “Egyptian cell” which was involved in the consulate attack.

    According to the report, during interrogations, these Egyptian jihadi cell members “confessed to very serious and important information concerning the financial sources of the group and the planners of the event and the storming and burning of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi…. And among the more prominent figures whose names were mentioned by cell members during confessions were: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi; preacher Muhammad Hegazi; Egyptian Sheikh Muhammad Hassan; former presidential candidate, Hazim Salih Abu Isma’il…”

    It should be noted that these findings are unsurprising, considering that some videos made during the consulate attack record people speaking in the Egyptian dialect—and one of those videos depicts some men approaching the beleaguered U.S. compound, even as one of them yells to the besiegers, “Don’t shoot—Dr. Morsi sent us!””

    Apparently, the Obama administration knew of the video no later than the day after the attack. Intelligence would have identified the Egyptian accent and the translation made almost immediately. Morsi being identified as directly involved in the Benghazi attack would be a mortal blow to Obama’s “Arab Spring” meme.

  9. Off Topic. I can’t help myself

    Looks like TAP/TANAP beats out Nabucco.


    As the (then young) man who first proposed and presented this project (in its embryonic form) to the Hellenic and Albanian Ministries of Energy, (in addition to certain short-minded State Dept. officials hostile to the project), back in the Nineties, I do derive a certain level of gratification at the end result.

    Now, if I can only get the wheels turning on that darn EMED pipeline+marine crossing from the Levant to S.Italy thru , Israel, Cyprus and Greece.. I do hope I won’t have to wait another twenty years for that one 🙂

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