Talking With the Taliban

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THE PLANK SEPTEMBER 11, 2009

Talking With the Taliban

I suppose it's good that the Swat Valley Taliban spokesman has been captured, but I have to question the wisdom of luring in people under the guise of negotiations and then snatching them. If we really are serious about trying to cut deals with some Taliban elements, it's probably not wise to give them reason to suspect any outreach might be a trap.

Relatedly, Carl Levin had this complaint in today's NYT:

Mr. Levin said the administration needed to adopt a plan to separate low- and midlevel insurgents from hard-core Taliban fighters and commanders. He said the current American efforts to do this had been tentative and halfhearted.

I don't know the details here, but perhaps this shouldn't be surprising. You negotiate with the enemy from a position of strength, not weakness, but right now the Taliban have the momentum. As I understand it, U.S. commanders have long felt that reversing that momentum militarily will be the first step towards winning over defectors. Success will breed success, in other words. But the Obama troop escalation is still underway; give it a little time.

Update: Interesting detail from Levin's Senate floor speech today (emphasis added):

[W]e should make a concerted effort to separate the local Taliban from their leaders.... Afghan leaders and our military say that local Taliban fighters are motivated largely by the need for a job or loyalty to the local leader who pays them and not by ideology or religious zeal. They believe an effort to attract these fighters to the government’s side could succeed, if they are offered security for themselves and their families, and if there is no penalty for previous activity against us.

But this “game changing” possibility was apparently not factored into General McChrystal’s assessment. There is no plan yet to put in place a Sons of Iraq approach in Afghanistan.

McChrystal didn't address this at all, really? That seems odd.

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posted in: the plank, world, politics, carl levin, spokesman, taliban

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