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There were three critical moments when the Taliban, out of weakness, were ready to cut a deal. But the United States, out of hubris, didn't want to hear about it. Contributing Editor. The end was closing in on them. Not two months after the U. They offered to surrender Kandahar and demobilize, relegating their five-year rule to a few northern and eastern pockets where fighting persisted.
They had a condition. Omar had to remain in Kandahar, albeit under mutually acceptable supervision. No one will ever know what would have happened if Rumsfeld and the George W. Bush administration had permitted Karzai and Omar to work out a deal—whether it would have held, whether the Taliban would have truly broken with al Qaeda, whether Afghanistan would have known peace.
But there is brutal certainty about what happened instead: 2, dead U. The Trump administration, in by far its most laudable foreign-policy act, is on the verge of a peace agreement with the Taliban. Official details about the U. Nothing about what follows is certain, not even whether it augurs the end of the war: Defense Secretary Mark Esper said last week that the U. Arduous negotiations await an Afghan government that is deeply divided internally and was brought into these peace talks reluctantly.Khadijah (ra): His First Love, Our First Mother - The Firsts - Dr. Omar Suleiman
Whatever emerges, Trump—to his credit and to the shame of those Trump critics who consider themselves more responsible stewards of U. At least three times over the past 19 years that the U. The first was the surrender offer. Another opportunity arose in In the early days, the U. Later, when the Taliban insurgency showed the folly of that decision, the U. Instead, over the course of 19 years, the Taliban simply strengthened their own.
Chris Kolenda, who was part of the failed peace effort and has ever since urged the U. Jalali was a retired Afghan Army colonel, trained by the U. Ahmed Rashid, in his book Descent Into Chaosdescribes Jalali as a reformist who operated as a check against corrupt officials and the clique of ex-Northern Alliance figures who dominated the early Karzai era.
In the spring ofa Taliban emissary discreetly approached Jalali in Kabul—as others did Karzai and military potentate Marshal Mohammed Fahim—to see if a new modus vivendi was possible. The Taliban was in a liminal state. Once there, however, its fighters received recruitment feelers from rival extremist factions; if they balked, the rivals would report their locations to U. Nonetheless, inthe Taliban raised the price for a deal.
They wanted immunity from prosecution and coalition attack, something hardly assured in U. If so, they would give up their insurgency and become something like a political party in the new internationally-guaranteed regime.
At the Afghan national security council, several figures, including Jalali, argued it was worth exploring. But the officials who had spent years fighting the Taliban were no more interested in peace than Rumsfeld was. If Taliban fighters wanted to surrender as individuals, that was to be embraced. After all, they were winning.
No unconditional immunity. This was the mentality. Jalali believes the Americans knew little beyond the broad outlines of the Taliban proffer. They were disengaged from Afghanistan and preoccupied with the invasion of Iraq. The majority of the Afghan government were the spoilers, even though Jalali said Karzai was, as inopen to a deal.
In the end, the Karzai government never sent an official response to the Taliban. That war intensified over the coming years. Init had killed U. Newly elected President Barack Obama responded by ordering two rounds of troop escalations—first 23, by March and another 30, in December —bracketing an embrace of an expansive counterinsurgency seeking to retake land from the Taliban. But the July date Obama set for the end of the surge outpaced any plan for ending the war.
By latewith the date to end the surge approaching, the Obama team decided to see if a deal with the Taliban was achievable. It was a heavy lift. Both the Taliban and the U. As united as the Obama team was in insisting the war had no military solution, it had a harder time envisioning a political solution. It was clear that the Taliban, in a vastly stronger position since they last sought an accord, would have a higher asking price for peace.
Inthe U. That was incomprehensible to the Taliban, which understood Karzai as an American stooge. Soon, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo appointed a Bush-era Afghanistan ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, to revive a diplomatic channel in pursuit of negotiating an end to the war.
The Taliban would not talk to the Kabul government without reaching an assurance with the U. The Americans were not exactly dealing from a position of strength. The Taliban, seeing little gain from diplomacy, intensified their war after Obama drew down in All of this dispirited Kolenda, who had been part of the negotiating team.
It remains to be seen if the Afghans can negotiate peace. Ghani, emerging from a mess of an electionhas been dragged into a process he distrusts by an American patron he distrusts as well. Several Americans interviewed for this story were reluctant to condemn the earlier failures of the U. As with Vietnam, America has preferred denial of its loss to facing it forthrightly. It is unable to reconcile its defeat with its cherished conception of its own omnipotence.
All of that speaks to the central reason why the U. Crossword Newsletters.
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