On-Again, Off-Again US Talks with Taliban in Doha; Kabul Furious

The attempt of the US State Department to open negotiations with the Taliban, who now have an office in Doha, Qatar, foundered on a series of SNAFUs on Wednesday.

First, the Taliban put up a sign at their office in Doha that implied it was the embassy of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the pre-2001 government in Kabul.

President Hamid Karzai and the members of parliament in the current government in Kabul were furious.

Then, the US announced that it would begin negotiating with the Taliban directly, whereas Karzai thought he would be in the room right from the beginning.

So Karzai and the lower house of parliament condemned the planned talks and pulled out of further negotiations. They also canceled planned discussions with the US about a mutual security treaty that would legally allow US troops to remain in country after December 31, 2014.

Secretary of State John Kerry called Karzai to apologize for what he said was a misunderstanding and Kerry then put off talks with the Taliban several days.

The willingness of the Taliban to negotiate with the US is new and surprising. One member of the Taliban said in the Afghan press that they were tired of fighting. Some think that they are in Doha to negotiate from a position of strength. I don’t think so. I think the Taliban want a place at the national table and they hope to get it through these negotiations as well as via continued military operations.

The Taliban say that all US troops must leave the country and that the government must impose an ‘Islamic State.’

Karzai now has a combined military and police force of 350,000. They are fairly well equipped and trained. But they suffer from high illiteracy rates and a 30% desertion rate, and it is not clear that they can defeat the Taliban, though they might be able to maintain the status quo. Washington hopes that they will fight and stand their ground as the US and NATO draw down.

Afghanistan faces severe challenges. Some 90% of the money in the country comes in the form of nearly $16 billion in annual foreign aid from the international community. Afghanistan’s budget is about $2 billion annually and the country simply cannot afford to pay for the massive army and police force itself. If foreign aid slips, that army lack the resources to go on fighting the Taliban.

The negotiations with the Taliban are key. But if they aren’t handled better than they were this week, we can’t expect a breakthrough any time soon.

VOA reports from a Washington point of view:

11 Responses

  1. Not the first time the nominal puppet has been the one pulling the strings that manipulate the actions of that Brobdingnagian, heavy-browed lout wearing the “U.S.” muscle shirt. (Can you spell “Likud?” How about “Diem?”) Pull the strings with a little covert help from nominal bit players like the CIA and other sets of sneaky-petes, who CONCEIVE they actually run things, IMAGINE they control the important events, and ALIENATE (the “legal” meaning) all that wealth and power, back there behind the seven veils labeled Freedom ™, Liberty ™ and Democracy ™, Exceptionalism ™, and other comforting myths…

    Meanwhile, back here in blogspace, “Let a hundred flowers bloom,” link to en.wikipedia.org, let us revel in our little Prague Spring, link to historylearningsite.co.uk, because

    After this brief period of liberalization, Mao abruptly changed course. The crackdown continued through 1957 as an Anti-Rightist Campaign against those who were critical of the regime and its ideology. Those targeted were publicly criticized and condemned to prison labor camps. Mao remarked at the time that he had “enticed the snakes out of their caves.”

    Brezhnev was not as nominally gentle as Mao, of course — how will our Stasi behave?

    • In other news, a Rubinite will be our new US Trade Representative, say 93 Senators, a fella who has said that if wethepeople knew what “the US” was up to in the several “free trade” deals now pending, Atlantic and Pacific, we would not be amused (per Elizabeth Warren, at least):

      I have heard the argument that transparency would undermine the Trade Representative’s policy to complete the trade agreement because public opposition would be significant. In other words, if people knew what was going on, they would stop it. This argument is exactly backwards. If transparency would lead to widespread public opposition to a trade agreement, then that trade agreement should not be the policy of the United States.

      link to rawstory.com and for context, and yet another reason for dyspepsia and nightmares, link to nakedcapitalism.com

      On again, off again, jiggity-jig… link to wiki.answers.com

  2. As usual, when the foreigner stops bribing Pashtuns, alliances will shift immediately. When the Karzai gang loses their foreign subsidy, I wonder what will happen to them.

    • Silver,
      I will say what you only hint at:
      the current war in Afghanistan, which really got going around 2006, is a race-based civil war.

      Don’t let the Popalzai Pashtun head of what used to be called the Northern Alliance fool you.

      This war pits the majority Pashtuns against the alliance of ethnic Tadjiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, backed by the US military and fronted by the head of the Durrani Popalzai Pashtuns, Karzai.

      This is a war to impose the will of the US-backed minority on the US-opposing or otherwise neutral majority.

      To be clear, Pashtuns are only a majority of Afghans if you will allow yourself to view the Durand Line as the Pashtuns do.

      • The Afghan-Americans of the Pashtun variety that I know don’t like the Taliban, and don’t want to be represented or governed by them.
        They would prefer to have a secular Pashtun government, or a proportional multi-ethnic government.

        But what the US is pushing is domination of Pashtuns by folks that they consider to be foreigners and interlopers. Carpet Baggers.

        Look at the ethnic composition of the central government in Kabul.
        Look at the ethnic composition of the “Afghan National Army.”
        Look at the ethnic composition of the officers of the “Afghan National Army.”
        Look at the ethnic composition of the “Afghan National Police.”

        The US military and State Department are willfully stupid in backing a race war. How could that possibly lead to long-term stability ?

        ………..

        SIDE NOTE:
        The term “Afghan” used to refer to the people we now call “Pashtun” or “Pathan.”

      • “To be clear, Pashtuns are only a majority of Afghans if you will allow yourself to view the Durand Line as the Pashtuns do.”

        To understand the dynamics of ethnic politics in Afghanistan it is essential to understand that historically Afghanistan was ruled by Pashtuns from 1709, when they overthrew Persian rule, until 1973 and the overthrow of King Mohammed Zahir Shah. The rulers were from several dynasties and sub-clans, but all were Pashtuns. I would expect that to continue to be the case, whether the US were to remain involved or not.

    • Historical precedent suggests beatings, hangings, and the removal of cherished body parts.

  3. my favorite quote from a member of a US PRT Team in Pashtun territory:
    “it’s an advantage to have the ANA and ANP only speak and understand Dari, so they can’t talk to the local population.”

  4. The Taliban’s agenda has not changed. I don’t blame them for being excited to negotiate. We have done a lot to help their cause lately. If I was America’s enemy I’d try to negotiate too.

  5. I worry that women’s rights will be the first thing conceded in any negotiations with the Taliban. I hope I’m wrong about that, but the thought of a return to the catastrophic conditions of the 1990s for women keeps me up at night.

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