Sunday, June 5, 2011

US-Taliban Talks, Don't Get Your Hopes Up

On June 4, 2011, Al Jazeera English, published an article which stated that US-Taliban talks were expected within one year. In the article, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated that "US-led forces had rolled back the Taliban out of its bastions in the south and there was mounting evidence that they were suffering setbacks on the battlefield" and that due to ongoing military action "political opportunities [would] flow" as well as that if enough information is gathered that the Taliban “are under pressure" that "perhaps this winter the possibility of some kind of political talks or reconciliation might be substantive enough to offer some hope of progress."  From the same article, it states that “the US has begun a secret engagement with the Taliban“as the Americans plan their withdrawal. One should not get their hopes up, however, as the US has unrealistic expectations, has acted like bumbling fools in Taliban talks before, and the Taliban seem to actually be winning the war as of now.

The US has horribly unrealistic expectations for Taliban talks from the get-go. The Telegraph wrote that the US wants to have talks with Taliban founder Mullah Omar. "During a visit to Islamabad last month, Marc Grossman, Washington's special envoy to the region, appealed for help in contacting the reclusive Taliban leader." However, this may be quite impossible as several weeks after Osama bin Laden was killed, it was reported that Mullah Omar was on the run as well as that senior Taliban officials were "preparing for either special forces raids against members of their Quetta Shura ruling council, or to be exiled from their safe havens." If they are exiled, one can easily bet that the senior officials will not be showing up for talks as they'll be too busy trying to make sure to stay out of US and Pakistani hands.

President Obama, back in 2009, made mention to the fact that he may want to start talks with the Taliban. Eventually he indeed decided to make it official policy later on. However, in 2010, then-commander of all NATO forces in Afghanistan, General McChrystal, had peace talks conducted with a fake Taliban commander. The imposter was "given tens of thousands of dollars as a reward for attending and as encouragement to develop the dialogue." Not only was this embarrassing for the US, more importantly it was a complete waste of time, money, and energy. This incident possibly may have shown the world just how desperate Western forces were to have talks with the Taliban. If this is correct, then the Taliban would have no reason for talks since they'd know that they had the West on a rope.

According to, there have been a total of 230 NATO troop deaths this year and of those 159 have been American. Currently, "insurgents have inflicted a heavy toll on international forces and many within the Taliban suspect that negotiations would undermine the movement's credibility and suggest it was losing the war." Due to the fighting insurgents have done in recent years, support for the war in Afghanistan was waned, as can be evidenced by an August 2010 Gallup poll in which 62% of Americans state that the Afghanistan war is going badly.  This current situation, along with the current war in Libya, which even further ties up NATO forces [and which on May 30th was stated to have cost the US $550 million so far and would cost about $40 million a month and in addition to the recent deployment of ground helicopters by NATO)] it seems that the Taliban don't have much of a reason to negotiate. All they may have to do is just hold on a while longer until Western forces leave as getting rid of the Karzai government will not be much of a problem.

The Taliban have been waiting for 10 years to regain control of Afghanistan. What's a couple more?

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