In The Atlantic, I wonder if we’re truly ready for a national discussion about negotiating with the Taliban:
Public discussions in the U.S. about the war tend to focus only on the military aspect of what happens after the planned 2014 troop drawdown. But there will have to be political transition as well, in which the Taliban, whether we like it or not, as a politically relevant Afghan group, will have to play a role. But the politics of Afghanistan, and of our involvement there, remain surprisingly absent from out public debate over the war. Only last week, when General Petraeus visited Washington to give Congress a progress report on the war, the talk focused almost entirely on the military aspects. Petraeus, as well as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michelle Flournoy, who also testified, spoke of political matters on briefly and as secondary the military mission. That doesn’t mean that Petraeus and the Pentagon are ignorant of the political aspect of the war or its importance. But what they chose to discuss and not discuss provides a telling indication that, even at the highest levels, our national conversation about the war gives little attention to the importance of its political elements. But it’s exactly those elements that will matter most in negotiating with the Taliban — an inherently political proposition.
Are we getting the political aspects of the war in Afghanistan as much as we’re getting the military aspects? I think that’s a discussion we need to have.