By Lex, on October 20, 2010
Heavy hitters from the Taliban are crossing the border under NATO protection to speak with Hamid Karzai’s government, according to the New York Times:
Talks to end the war in Afghanistan involve extensive, face-to-face discussions with Taliban commanders from the highest levels of the group’s leadership, who are secretly leaving their sanctuaries in Pakistan with the help of NATO troops, officials here say.
The discussions, some of which have taken place in Kabul, are unfolding between the inner circle of President Hamid Karzai and members of the Quetta shura, the leadership group that oversees the Taliban war effort inside Afghanistan. Afghan leaders have also held discussions with leaders of the Haqqani network, considered to be one of the most hard-line guerrilla factions fighting here; and members of the Peshawar shura, whose fighters are based in eastern Afghanistan.
The Taliban leaders coming into Afghanistan for talks have left their havens in Pakistan on the explicit assurance that they will not be attacked or arrested by NATO forces, Afghans familiar with the talks say. Many top Taliban leaders reside in Pakistan, where they are believed to enjoy at least some official protection.
In at least one case, Taliban leaders crossed the border and boarded a NATO aircraft bound for Kabul, according to an Afghan with knowledge of the talks. In other cases, NATO troops have secured roads to allow Taliban officials to reach Afghan- and NATO-controlled areas so they can take part in discussions. Most of the discussions have taken place outside of Kabul, according to the Afghan official.
American officials said last week that talks between Afghan and Taliban leaders were under way. But the ranks of the insurgents, the fact that they represent multiple factions, and the extent of NATO efforts to provide transportation and security to adversaries they otherwise try to kill or capture have not been previously disclosed.
The military apparently believes that the increased tempo of drone attacks and the pressure of the surge forces deployed until next summer has driven Taliban leaders to the table. But like the Vietnam peace talks in Paris, this could be nothing more than a delaying tactic to get the B-52sPredators and Reapers off their backs until first the surge, and then the main body of NATO troops redeploy. At which time the Taliban could party like it’s 700 AD.
And it’s not helpful that the Taliban are so loosely organized, nor so vengefully supported:
The identities of the Taliban leaders are being withheld by The New York Times at the request of the White House and an Afghan who has taken part in the discussions. The Afghan official said that identifying the men could result in their deaths or detention at the hands of rival Taliban commanders or the Pakistani intelligence agents who support them.
If you find yourself wondering whether it’s possible to work with these people, you have to remember that we can’t kill them all.
Update: The troops don’t like it.
To the soldiers and Marines risking their lives in Afghanistan, restrictions on their ability to aggressively attack the Taliban have led to another enormous frustration stalking morale: the fear that the Karzai government, with the prodding of the administration of President Obama, will negotiate a peace with the Taliban that wastes all the sacrifices by the U.S. here. Those fears intensified when news reached the enlisted ranks that the Karzai government, with the backing of senior Obama officials, was entering a new round of negotiations with the Taliban.
“If we walk away, cut a deal with the Taliban, desert the people who needed us most, then this war was pointless,” said Pvt. Jeffrey Ward, with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, who is stationed at Forward Operating Base Bullard in southern Afghanistan.
“Everyone dies for their own reasons but it’s sad to think that our friends, the troops, have given their lives for something we’re not going to see through.”
Other soldiers agreed. They said they feared few officials in the Pentagon understand the reality on the ground.
From the front lines, the U.S. backing of the Karzai government, widely seen as riddled with corruption by the Afghans living in local villages, has given the Taliban a position of power in villages while undercutting U.S. moral authority.
The guy in the trenches is young, often frightened and necessarily has a limited horizon. But these strategic corporals are the ones that are implementing the high flown counter-insurgency strategy on a day to day basis.
That one you probably ought to read in full.