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Peace negotiations with the Taliban?

Memo to the Taliban: We’re not saying “no” to peace negotiations, assuming you are willing to dump Osama bin Laden and stop shooting U.S. soldiers. But we’re not saying “yes,” either. Yours sincerely, Hillary Clinton, secretary of state.

That’s the way I would read the oblique and little noticed message that Clinton delivered Monday. Asked about Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s call Sunday for a loya jirga council that would include Taliban members, she said this: “Obviously we are going to ask questions about how it proceeds. But the general idea of exploring this is one that we have been open to.”

I’m skeptical that either side is really ready for peace negotiations. U.S. officials have been saying for many months that they favor an eventual reconciliation with the Taliban as part of an overall political solution, but only if the Taliban abandons Al Qaeda and agrees to lay down arms. Mullah Omar, the insurgent leader, has shown no willingness to make these concessions -- especially at a time when U.S. commanders say he’s winning the war.

What makes this latest flurry of “tea with the Taliban” rumors interesting is that they’re getting press attention in the two countries that would broker any such contacts -- Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

The Pakistani newspaper Dawn claimed Tuesday that indirect talks were underway between the United States and the Taliban, facilitated by the Pakistani and Saudi intelligence services. The story named four people close to the Taliban who were said to be involved in the talks. There was no official Pakistani comment in the story, and I would caution readers that Dawn’s scoops often don’t hold up.

A similar breathless account, what we journalists like to call a “dope story,” appeared Monday in the Saudi newspaper Al Watan. The Saudi paper cited a source in Kabul who claimed that Ambassador Karl Eikenberry “is holding secret talks with Taliban elements headed by the movement’s foreign minister, Ahmad Mutawakil, at a secret location in Kabul.” That’s doubtful, to put it mildly. But it’s interesting that someone wanted to see it in print.

Here’s the background, so that you can assess future rumor-mongering. The Saudis have been hosting informal Afghan talks for more than a year, at Karzai’s request, to see if there’s a Taliban negotiating partner. So far, that effort hasn’t produced anything but meetings and more meetings. But the Saudis are still trying, with the same insistence as the U.S. that the Taliban dump Al Qaeda.

Pakistani officials doubt that the Saudi track will lead anywhere. But they like Karzai’s idea of a loya jirga that would draw in the Taliban, and they would be ready, under the right circumstances, to encourage a negotiated settlement with Pashtun insurgents.

So, basically, everybody thinks this is a good idea…sometime. Over to you, Mullah Omar.

By David Ignatius  | November 24, 2009; 5:52 PM ET
Categories:  Ignatius  | Tags:  David Ignatius  
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Comments

Other than a plan to kill every last Taliban what is the other option? Hillary is going to ride the Afghan peace accord right into the White House in three short years.

Posted by: hillaryc1 | November 24, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Robert Gibbs: A request for "an Increase in Troops sat on the Desks in this White House [During the Presidency of George W. Bush] including the Vice President's, for more than [[8 Months]] a Resource Request Filled by President Obama in March 09"

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2009/oct/23/robert-gibbs/white-house-spokesman-robert-gibbs-fires-back-chen/
___________________________

Gibbs is referring here to a request for additional troops made by the previous top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, during President George W. Bush's final year in office.

McKiernan made his requests public in a press conference in September 2008 in Afghanistan, saying he needed at least three more combat brigades, in addition to the one Bush had promised in January. He said more soldiers and resources were needed to stabilize insurgencies in Afghanistan.

"The danger is that we'll be here longer and we'll expend more resources and experience more human suffering than if we had more resources placed against this campaign sooner," McKiernan told reporters.

"The additional military capabilities that have been asked for are needed as quickly as possible," he said.

McKiernan said then that the Pentagon validated his formal request for additional troops, and that his request dated back to when he replaced his predecessor four months prior.

And McKiernan told reporters his request went back nearly to the start of his taking over as the top U.S. commander four months before that. That would suggest Gibbs' claim is correct that it had been sitting on desks in the White House for eight months.

PolitiFact: And so we rule his statement True.
______________

Posted by: omaarsblade | November 24, 2009 8:17 PM | Report abuse

"What are the other options?" we are asked. How about identifying the enemy ideology of Islamic supremacism and dealing with it from a human rights perspective?

These calls to talk with Islamic supremacist Taliban are as reckless and dangerous as calls to talk with white supremacists would have been in the 1960s United States.

When will we develop a strategy based on being responsible for universal human rights as a priority? Those oppressed in Afghanistan, the women tortured, mutilated, and raped, and the religious minorities living in fear - have been told by Holbrooke and others that basically we will give up on them. It is a human right disgrace.

Posted by: jeff-in-dc | November 24, 2009 8:38 PM | Report abuse

One definition of victory in Afghanistan would be making it untenable for the taliban to continue fighting the government, and letting those Taliban who reach that decision return and learn to live under some rule of law.

The Afghans certainly understand loya jerga. If loya jerga accepts a politicized Taliban, obviously somewhat or muchly evolved from the religious fanatics who let bin Laden run free and openly in Afghanistan on the basis of his Islamic fanaticism, rejoin the Afghan mainstream, we ought to applaud, and high tail it out of those mountains as fast as helicopters will carry us.

Singing songs of victory all the way.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 24, 2009 9:09 PM | Report abuse

"Other than a plan to kill every last Taliban what is the other option? Hillary is going to ride the Afghan peace accord right into the White House in three short years. Posted by: hillaryc1"

Hillary's office is in foggy bottom and isn't likely to change when the consensus administration position, (which may very well be her's originally) brings salubrious results.

If Hillary looks good, so does her boss. There will be accolades enough to go around. But BHO will be the one riding good ideas well carried out into four more years on Pennsylvania Ave.

Posted by: ceflynline | November 24, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Peace instead of war. Through negotiations with the enemy, no less. Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

How refreshing. Obama continues to amaze. Just imagine what he is going to accomplish over the next three years.

Posted by: RobertaHigginbotham | November 25, 2009 12:58 AM | Report abuse

We seem to be living in a world of make believe. The Taliban, Al Qaeda, and other Islamist organizations across the continents have left no one in doubt about their objectives. They shall be content with nothing less than reestablishment of the Caliphate and Islamist dominion worldwide. With these kinds of declared aims, how can anyone think in terms of negotiating with the Taliban, or any other Islamist group, in the hope that common ground may be found? The idea of negotiating with the Taliban and an earlier idea of reaching out to 'good' Taliban cannot be practical in the best of conditions. The only position that can be logical is that the Taliban should give up all hope and effort to pursue those objectives. It seems unlikely that they may be willing to do so. It only remains for Isaf to push on with operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Additionally, I beg to remind ourselves that we are not dealing with the Taliban as a one time event. This kind of Islamist movement has been going on for quite some time and did not begin on 9/11 [2001]. The US in any case should remember the attacks on its embassies in Africa and on USS Cole long before 9/11 as well as other attacks on US targets. Whenever anything like 9/11 seems likely, right thinking people around the world shall have to come together to make a common fight against such an attempt.
V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, Nov 25 2009, 1312 IST

Posted by: vineycb1 | November 25, 2009 2:42 AM | Report abuse

Yonkers, New York
25 November 2009

Yes, David Ignatius, why not enter into peace negotiations with the Taliban now?

This Afghan war, already characterized as bottomless and unwinnable, is going nowhere.

In the first place, its original strategic logic has already been pulled from under the rug of U.S. and NATO forces there because Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda have left Afghanistan and moved over to safe havens in Pakistan where they have friends and protectors.

In the second place, recall that the Taliban and those Afghan tribal chiefs were once the friends and allies of the U.S. in the successful efforts to dislodge Soviet forces from Afghanistan from 1979 through 1989.

They can be the U.S.'s and NATO's friends and allies again, in the same pragmatic and realistic way that the Sunni militias under Moqtada al-Sadr eventually became the U.S.'s allies in Iraq.

Mariano Patalinjug

Posted by: MPatalinjug | November 25, 2009 6:05 AM | Report abuse

Yonkers, New York
25 November 2009

Yes, David Ignatius, why not enter into peace negotiations with the Taliban now?

This Afghan war, already characterized as bottomless and unwinnable, is going nowhere.

In the first place, its original strategic logic has already been pulled from under the rug of U.S. and NATO forces there because Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qaeda have left Afghanistan and moved over to safe havens in Pakistan where they have friends and protectors.

In the second place, recall that the Taliban and those Afghan tribal chiefs were once the friends and allies of the U.S. in the successful efforts to dislodge Soviet forces from Afghanistan from 1979 through 1989.

They can be the U.S.'s and NATO's friends and allies again, in the same pragmatic and realistic way that the Sunni militias under Moqtada al-Sadr eventually became the U.S.'s allies in Iraq.

Mariano Patalinjug

Posted by: MPatalinjug | November 25, 2009 6:05 AM | Report abuse

Maybe when Shariah law hits you right in your blissfully ignorant faces you might wake up and see whats going on here and hoiw it is infiltrating the United States. These people do not want to negotiate ..they want world domination... and any negotations they agree to will be null and void as soon they feel they can get away with it. Give them and inch and they will keep on taking..

Posted by: JUNGLEJIM123 | November 25, 2009 8:38 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps we could entice the Saudis to help negotiate settlements with the inner-city youth gangs in our major cities. Ask them to give up the drug trade in lieu of stimulus money from the Obama Admn. The level of violence could be significantly reduced.

Posted by: johnson0572 | November 25, 2009 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Has Mr. Ignatious or anyone else other than me read the `9-11 Commission Report?'

In light of that report's solid conclusions this bid to `negotiate withe Taliban' is stupid cubed...

Posted by: AlongTheWatchTowers | November 25, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

Those wacky packees!

Is there anything that they WON'T say in order to steal a couple more billion from the U.S. taxpayers? Clearly there is not.

Posted by: Heerman532 | November 25, 2009 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Lyndon B.Johnson shouldv'e Negoitated a Peace Treaty with The North Viet Nam...

They Won the War.

We sent 500,000 and we still Lost that War and 1000's of US Troops.

Obama will not Repeat this Blunder.

We Cannot Afford this War, its Killing this Nation's Economy.


We're in Major Debt to Communist-Socialist China, 12 Trillion Dollars and Counting, with Interest for the Past 8 Years and You Low Life's want to Keep this Bogus Occupation Alive...

OK

Lets Implement the Damn [[DRAFT]]

President Obama should Implement the [[DRAFT]] and Everybody's Legal of Age Children, will Enter the War.

I Bet You, The War would Not Last Beyond 3 Months, if President Obama, Announced he would Implement the [[DRAFT]]
_____________________

Posted by: omaarsblade | November 25, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

David Gregory Gets "Joltin" Joe Lieberman

On the High Cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq War Cost 12 trillion and its Not Paid For, or Budget Neutral and Additional Cost of 9 Trillion more Dollars added to the already 12 Trillion Dollars, we Owe Communist-Socialist China, with Interest.
_____________

MR. GREGORY: I just want to...

SEN. LIEBERMAN: I don't want to do that.

MR. GREGORY: Are you consistent on this matter? If you say you don't like a public option because of how it might influence the debt, will you apply that same standard to escalating the war in Afghanistan?

Should that be deficit-neutral, what we spend on Afghanistan?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Incidentally, over the years, back in the Bush administration, I put forward tax programs to pay for the wars because I, I don't know of another time in our history when we went to war and didn't pay for it.

That's part of why we have the enormous debt that we have now, [$12 Trillion] today, predicted to add [[$9 Trillion]] in the next 10 years.

MR. GREGORY: All right, so that's the question.

SEN. LIEBERMAN: It, it's going to...

MR. GREGORY: You, you would pay for escalation in Afghanistan? It would have to be paid for?

SEN. LIEBERMAN: Absolutely.

Note: Lieberman is Giving Gregory Borderline Bull Spit and Gregory Knows it too.
_____________________

Posted by: omaarsblade | November 25, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Read some articles about this issue here..

http://www.lipmantimes.com/

It's a 24/7 news site on the Obama Administration!


Posted by: fozzy13 | November 26, 2009 12:02 AM | Report abuse

"I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am president, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank. " - Barack Obama Campaign Promise - October 27, 2007
What about
all of us, who voted for
barack obama because he
promised us, we would stop
wasting money on these wars,
and use the money to create
green jobs in the United States??

1,000,000,000.00 A Month?

ring a bell?

Bring our troops home
George W. Obama!!!

Posted by: simonsays1 | November 27, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

In Mary Shelley's great novel, Frankenstein creates a monster. From that point on, page after page depicts the futility of trying to reason with such a creature. Truth is, that breed, doesn't negotiate with anyone, including its maker.

Posted by: Farnaz1Mansouri1 | November 27, 2009 7:20 PM | Report abuse

Sorry guys. Wishful thinking.

As you point out .. the Taliban are WINNING right now !

Read DAVID ROHDE a New York Times reporter Published: October 17, 2009:

“During our time as hostages, I tried to reason with our captors. I told them we were journalists who had come to hear the Taliban’s side of the story. I told them that I had recently married and that Tahir and Asad had nine young children between them. I wept, hoping it would create sympathy, and begged them to release us. All of my efforts proved pointless.”

“Over those months, I came to a simple realization. After seven years of reporting in the region, I did not fully understand how extreme many of the Taliban had become. Before the kidnapping, I viewed the organization as a form of “Al Qaeda lite,” a religiously motivated movement primarily focused on controlling Afghanistan.”

“Living side by side with the Haqqanis’ followers, I learned that the goal of the hard-line Taliban was far more ambitious. Contact with foreign militants in the tribal areas appeared to have deeply affected many young Taliban fighters. They wanted to create a fundamentalist Islamic emirate with Al Qaeda that spanned the Muslim world.”

Sadly, the Taliban is indeed fully radicalized. Retreat is NOT an option.

Posted by: pvilso24 | November 30, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

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