An interesting month in Afghanistan
Taliban peace talks were meaningless from the start
It has been an excellent month for the Taliban.
A month of crimes by American forces ranging from the imbecilic to the psychopathic has increased their political capital to a level they have not enjoyed since they were ousted in 2001.
The crimes have been so severe that they have prompted even President Karzai to call for an accelerated NATO withdrawal, and for American forces to be confined to bases.
When even a satrap like Karzai feels he could do better without American support, times are indeed tough for the good guys.
Coinciding with the pullback was the Taliban announcement to withdraw from the preliminary peace negotiations that were beginning in Qatar.
Apparently the Koran burning, corpse desecration and murder spree were turning enough hearts and minds to their cause, without requiring further concessions.
However, before the cancelled talks become accepted as proof of the impossibility of NATO’s mission, to which Canada commits 910 troops in a training capacity, a few things must be understood.
First is that the cancellation is a delaying tactic.
Commentators suggest that the Taliban leadership need to negotiate at least a prisoner exchange in the near future to maintain credibility. Walking away from the talks now will force the U.S. to come to the table with more concessions.
More importantly, however, is that beyond the exchange of prisoners (five fighters in Guantanamo for one American soldier) these negotiations are almost certainly not going to be worth the Qatari real estate they’re occupying.
The Taliban refuse to accept Karzai’s government, and will not allow them to participate in the negotiations.
Referring to any internal peace process as “a waste of time,” the Taliban statement stressed that they considered Karzai to be a mouthpiece for the U.S., and impotent to effect change or wield power.
I must say, it’s not often that I find myself agreeing with the Taliban, but this point seemed remarkably astute.
However, whether we consider the purpose of the diplomatic missions to be a genuine reconciliation of Taliban fighters, or merely a cease-fire at the time of NATO withdrawal, both are impossible if the Taliban refuses to recognize the Afghan government.
It is clear that these peace talks were meaningless from the start. What negotiations could be made to an organization that is prepared to wage the war forever, to the last faithful standing?
What common ground can be found with a political system that identifies the West as the source of all evil and discord in the world?
Prisoner exchanges are important, but to equivocate this with a genuine peace process is disingenuous.
The Taliban wants most what it’s already been given this month. The crimes of the American soldiers are gifts to them, and they will use them cravenly and greedily.
They built their government on the deaths of their countrymen, they profit by those deaths today, and they will seek them in the future. With such an opposition, failures at the negotiating table are the norm, not the aberration.
The futility of peace talks, and the backlash of anti-Americanism, makes the task of empowering Afghan forces more pressing and necessary than ever.
Canada’s leading role in this aspect of the NATO mission should not be undervalued. These last two years before the withdrawal of the West will shape the fate of the government we leave behind for many years after it’s ceased making headlines here.
Steve Currie blogs at http://alotoftinyrobots.blogspot.com.
Published in Volume 66, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 21, 2012)