The point that the US needs to go beyond endorsing negotiations with “moderate Taliban” was made forcefully by Afghan businesswoman Rangina Hamidi, interviewed on Tuesday on “Democracy Now!” : “extremists” also have to be engaged. She noted that “almost every group that has been involved in the destruction of Afghanistan since the past thirty years” was represented in the US-organized political process for Afghanistan after 2001 – except the Taliban.
Last weekend, President Obama “signaled that reconciliation could emerge as an important initiative” as part of his review of US policy in Afghanistan, The New York Times reported. This is potentially a very hopeful sign. But it is absolutely critical that the “reconciliation” in the new strategy potentially includes Taliban leaders who can actually help deliver peace, not just be a rehash of the existing “reconciliation” policy that has failed:
The problem with the reconciliation process, officials say, is that it demanded that the Taliban lay down their arms in return for security guarantees, which they did not trust either the government to enforce or the Americans to honor.
“We make reconciliation sound like surrender; where has that ever worked?” said one Western official with long experience in Afghanistan, who did not want to be identified because of the political nature of his comments. “What is required is structured engagement with all Afghan communities, including the Pashtun and therefore representatives of the Taliban, around a new political project.”
recent ABC poll found that 64 percent of Afghans support negotiations with the Taliban. The Afghan government – whatever its faults, a government selected by a political process endorsed by the US – also supports negotiations. Since we are all about “promoting democracy,” shouldn’t that count for something.
Robert Naiman is senior policy analyst at Just Foreign Policy. Posted by Bulatlat.com