America the Unreliable

by Joshua Foust on 3/15/2010 · 10 comments

The next time some American official mentions they want to engage in negotiations with the Taliban, please: laugh really hard.

The Afghan government was holding secret talks with the Taliban’s No. 2 when he was captured in Pakistan, and the arrest infuriated President Hamid Karzai, according to one of Karzai’s advisers.

The detention of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar — second in the Taliban only to one-eyed Mullah Mohammed Omar — has raised new questions about whether the U.S. is willing to back peace discussions with leaders who harbored the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks.

Karzai “was very angry” when he heard that the Pakistanis had picked up Baradar with an assist from U.S. intelligence, the adviser said. Besides the ongoing talks, he said Baradar had “given a green light” to participating in a three-day peace jirga that Karzai is hosting next month.

Now, some of this we knew: Pakistan will not allow this to happen in a vacuum, etc. What’s shocking is the involvement of American intelligence agents in something so glaringly counterproductive. Back when he was first captured, I said we “paid a price for this, keep an eye out for what it might be.” Now we have some idea: we stabbed our host government in the back and told the remaining senior Taliban that should they ever wish to negotiate or participate in peace talks, we will arrest and torture them.

There is a slight caveat: many insurgent leaders use the promise of negotiations as a ploy to buy breathing room and respite from fighting; Baradar is not one of those leaders, however. As a well known “moderate,” such as they exist within the senior Taliban today, he was one of the few willing to actually discuss an end to the war with the U.S. and Kabul. Even that hope is gone now—and the result is a Taliban with documented evidence that approaching the negotiation table earns one a place in an ISI prison.

This isn’t the first time American and Pakistani greed has undermined a peace process—as we’ve discussed previously, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas the U.S. has a very reliable habit ever since 2004 or so of trying to murder any Pakistani Taliban leader who sits down at the negotiation table. The Pakistanis are hardly better—if you look at the “peace deals” and temporary truces drawn up in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2008, in the beginning it was Pakistan of the U.S. who violated those cease-fires, not the Pakistani Taliban. It’s only in recent years, once the Pakistani Taliban could be certain that negotiations were just a ploy meant to kill off some leaders, that they began using negotiations—which used to have an established history—as an empty ploy.

So to summarize: the United States has established a firm reputation in the AfPak area. It just isn’t a good one, considering how readily we renege on our word or lie about the prospects of peace just to grab or kill a leader here or there. The extremely halting “success” of any peace talks so far should neither surprise nor dismay us, for we are the reason they haven’t worked.

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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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Christopher Logan March 15, 2010 at 7:53 pm


Please come over to my site and explain his “moderate” polices. There will never be peace because Islam calls for perpetual war.

Islam 101: The Religion of War

Turgai March 16, 2010 at 5:14 am

OK and then what? One more example of rabiate Islambashing as a way to divert attention and not have to face the fact that eight years of neocon-Zionist Republican rule were a disaster of epic proportions.

AJK March 15, 2010 at 10:36 pm

It looks like the Byzantine-style “play folks against each other” bit isn’t working out as well as Luttwak would hope.

Oh, and Logan? Thomas Muntzer, a bunch of Amalekites, and everyone who looked cross-eyed at Ashoka want to have a word with you.

Toryalay Shirzay March 15, 2010 at 11:03 pm

Christopher Logan, congratulation for your correct understanding of islam and bravo for having the guts to call a spade a spade.It is high time someone came forward to educate westerners about this extremely oppressive and evil politico religion islam of arabs.It has been oppressing our people for 1400 years under daily death threat.It does not allow any freedom,off with your head if you dare disagree with ANY of its tenets!!It has turned our land into a cesspool with many layers of filth and evil crystallized in it.It calls for not only the killing of non-muslems but also for hatred of non-muslems.Islam has made our society into a very sick society in which lying is allowed and practiced widely,abuse of children and molestation of little boys is widespread and wife beating is common place all due to islamic mandates and customs.
How long must we take this oppression and when do freedom loving people come forward to denounce this evil religion??

Toryalay Shirzay March 16, 2010 at 12:06 am

It’s the Paki establishment that actually does not want peace as they have masterfully benefited from continuation of war and terrorism over the last 30 years.This is how they get their money and military hardware from the US,Saudi Arabia,other arabs,China and etc.

Dafydd March 16, 2010 at 9:14 am

The other way of looking at it is the Taliban used the ISI to purge Baradar because of his moderation.

Either way, your conclusion that every Talib now knows negotiation leads to arrest (and arrest to torture) has got to be true. And at least one of the sides does not take the idea of negotiation with the other in the least bit seriously.

So far as the reputation of the US in the area is concerned, it is rapidly becoming that of a run of the mill colonialist.

Patrick March 16, 2010 at 10:04 am

Alright, I might be a bit out of my depth here, but I’m a bit confused. Wasn’t it not too long ago that this blog was asserting that any type of negotiations with Hekmatyar and Haqqani were completely unthinkable?

Now, I apologize for not having had the time to look into this on my own but how is Baradar any different? I see the assertion that he is ‘moderate’, but I feel as though given the recent post deriding negotiations with the other factions, it would be helpful to expand on exactly what that means.

I guess without any explicit justification for the moderate tag I am skeptical about Baradar’s suitability as a negotiating partner if we are going to go ahead and say that Hekmatyar and Haqqani (and if I remember correctly people like Masood and Dostum were lumped in with that crowd as well) are absolutely not.

Joshua Foust March 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

Patrick: huge difference between Baradar and Hekmatyar/Haqqani. My point wasn’t that all Taliban are irreconcilable, but that some are.

DePetris March 16, 2010 at 3:05 pm

Mr. Foust, do you have any personal information that would actually confirm that Baradar is truly interested in reconciliation with Karzai? I understand that western officials consider him a moderate in the Taliban leadership, but even moderates have self-interest at heart. Perhaps he was merely using negotiation as a tactic to bring the Taliban into a potential Afghan governing coalition. While this is certainly speculation, it seems that this scenario is just as viable as the one you are putting forth in this post.

Dave March 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm

Great post Joshua, but I disagree on your analysis of the role of the U.S. I don’t think that Baradar, as an intelligence asset, would be of sufficient value to the U.S. for them to undermine negotiations. Instead, I think they were in the dark and the ISI played the U.S. (again). I wrote up my thoughts in more detail here:

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