Downer calls for Taliban negotiations
At first glance, this is a particularly unpalatable notion, but perhaps the Realpolitik of the situation warrants such a change of strategy.
THE initial objective of the invasion of Afghanistan has been achieved and it’s time for a diplomatic settlement involving the Taliban and their Pakistani creators, says former foreign minister Alexander Downer.
In an article entitled “Our messy war” published in The Spectator ahead of the parliamentary debate on Afghanistan, Mr Downer said the initial military goal was to destroy al-Qaeda’s capacity to use Afghanistan as a base for attacks on the US and other western targets.
“That goal was achieved. Al-Qaeda was destroyed in Afghanistan. As time has passed there has been mission creep,” he said.
Mr Downer said the task now was apparently to improve the quality of democracy and security, but that was proving perilously difficult as Afghanistan had never been competently governed by an administration based in Kabul.
However, on the one hand we see reports of a decimated Taliban having endured a near decade-long “arse-kicking”. Their best commanders are either dead or captured and what’s left is literally a rag tag army.
Thus, why negotiate now? Rather, seizing the jugular (g’day, reader Carpe Jugulum ;-)!) would appear to be the more effective option in the long-run.
But then there are the reports of a wishy-washy US president who even after an Iraqi-style troop surge- which has arguably been a success, just like in Iraq - still appears to not really know what to do.
American Spectator’s Alfred S. Regnery:
Afghanistan is often called the “graveyard of empires.” It is also Barack Obama’s Achilles’ heel. He has nobody to blame but himself.
Afghanistan has little strategic value and the war is one of choice rather than necessity. Now, at the end of a wasteful and frustrating decade, our objective is to end the fighting and leave a measure of stability behind. But clarifying even this simple goal seems more than the Obama administration can handle.
That’s probably why Downer is calling for a deal. Regnery’s piece goes on to remind us that Afghanistan, hardly a nation, is but really a collection of tribes, rooted in the middle ages, and certainly not a prime candidate for nation-building.
Still, something doesn’t sit right. Even with Al-Qaeda taken care of over there, what’s to say they wouldn’t re-emerge – and quickly? A deal and/or pull-out would likely inspire Islamic terrorist forces around the globe. And just how much could you expect a “legitimised” Taliban to keep up their end of any bargain?
The Australian parliament is set to debate the Afghanistan War this Tuesday. Yet with the major government power-broker, Greens’ leader Bob Brown, not even having been there, it seems folly to have this debate just now even if both, generally speaking, the ALP and Liberals are committed to the war.
You’d think the best course of action would be to head the advice of the generals on the ground. Bob Brown flies in the face of this, however.
“We have to take what our army commanders are saying into account here but then I have letters from relatives of troops who are in Afghanistan or going to Afghanistan who do not want their loved ones sent to what they see as a hopeless war,” he told ABC Television.
A US debate over what step to take next is scheduled for December.
Faced with a White House war review due in December and decreasing public support for the war back home, the U.S. military is not in a position to hold back. The current phase of operations is geared to make a statement: drive the fight as aggressively as possible and rout the Taliban in their own backyard. Looking forward, commanders posit that improved civilian freedom of movement and a stronger government presence will be reliable gauges of progress. But it remains to be seen just what metrics will be enough to convince the Obama Administration that serious money and manpower should be poured into a conflict now entering its 10th year.
Whatever the powers-that-be decide, now is a good time for Western forces to strike hard while the iron is hot. One reason is purely military in nature: the Taliban is at its knees. The other reason is purely political in nature: Obama and other Western politicians appear to be at their knees.
Picture source: Taliban feud over murder of Polish hostage
More defeatist talk.