The Negotiations Kabuki Continues

by Joshua Foust on 3/19/2009 · 2 comments

FOB SALERNO, AFGHANISTAN — Spencer Ackerman is weirdly credulous of this Anand Gopal piece on the Haqqanis:

What’s going on with the Afghanistan insurgent-reconciliation process? Last month, the Kabul government seemed disinclined to deal with the leadership of the insurgency, including the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and key factional chiefs like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalaleddin Haqqani. But now the Christian Science Monitor’s Anand Gopal reports that the government has talks open with Haqqani’s people…

According to an Afghan senator quoted in the piece, President Obama’s recognition that the conflict doesn’t have a military solution shook loose some interest from the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Yet the road map under discussion calls, at this stage, for restrictions on U.S. military actions leading to ultimate U.S. withdrawal. Would the Obama administration accept that?

According to a knowledgeable source, the United States has three basic conditions for what it can’t accept from the Karzai government in terms of insurgent reconciliation: no al-Qaeda; no separate deals with insurgent groups that leave them in charge of provinces; and no restrictions on military operations. If Gopal’s report is accurate, a roadmap for peace with Haqqani tests the strength of those conditions.

I’m glad Ackerman has knowledgable sources—maybe one can tell him that they’re not really “senators” the way Americans conceive them, and oh yeah that the last time the government tried this in 2007 the Haqqani Network not-so-politely told them to get lost. Right now, we have the authority of a “mediator” who is himself tied to the idea of being an honest broker because he’s former-Taliban to tell us that Jalaluddin and Siraj, apparently not content with the resouding successes they’ve enjoyed the last two years, now want to back away and join the government. Color us skeptical.

Here’s one way to test the seriousness of the supposed HN proposal: they want an end to “house raids” and the release of all HN detainees. Well, the U.S. would like them to stop using guns. It is about as serious a proposal as offering rainbow flavored cupcakes with the steaming hot chai and naan at the negotiating table… which would, of course, be made of solid chromite and then handed off to Siraj for later sale on the black market as a thank you for attending. It could be an opening, yes, if it is true—but so far there is no indication it is anything other than the same old dance we’ve seen from Kabul since 2002.

Talking to the Enemy (04/03/08)
The Long History of Negotiating with the Taliban (11/17/08)
The Persuadable Taliban (03/06/09)

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This post was written by...

– 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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Spencer Ackerman March 19, 2009 at 8:35 am

Well, I ended the post with “We’ll see if denials emerge from Haqqani’s people, as was the case earlier this week with the Taliban’s Quetta Shura following reports that they were ready to deal with the Kabul government.” That’s too credulous?

Joshua Foust March 19, 2009 at 9:22 am

Well, I think it’s probably relative. I’m deeply cynical about the whole process and assume everyone is lying and dancing. They may not be — treating them like they might not be is more credulous than I am.

So, yeah. I hope that didn’t sound insulting or anything.

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