Offering Negotiations Is Tantamount to Admitting Weakness Until the Tide Flows in Our Favor

by Joshua Foust on 11/17/2008

Spencer is still issuing platitudes about Taliban negotiations, though now he’s tempering it with sage wisdom from Mister Kilcullen and the zeitgeist-y SWJ. The latest movement involves Hamid Karzai’s latest blanket offer of safety to Mullah Mohammed Omar—an offer that was quickly rebuffed.

Now, Ackerman plays this like a reasoned first step in testing a hypothesis about the behavior of the Taliban. As I noted last time, only those unfamiliar with the Taliban’s history will see this as a new data point: Karzai has been extending the exact same offer since about early 2002 or so (see here, for example). Rather, this is the desperate gamble of a man scrambling for political capital right before a major election—and, given the swiftness of Omar’s reply, a rather convincing admission of weakness.

This is not a promising step—it is a deeply discouraging one. The SWJ guy linked above is right—until movement inside Afghanistan favors the U.S.—at the moment is most certainly does not—offering negotiations only makes us look bad. Let us hope the exigencies of democratic politics don’t undermine us too terrible.

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– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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