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"This is the way you end insurgencies"
Posted by on September 28th, 2010

From our partners at

By Steve Hynd

The New York Times headline is an interesting break from the run-of-the-mill: "Petraeus Says Taliban Have Reached Out to Karzai". Notice the direction of the reaching out, and who is revealing it.

“There are very high-level Taliban leaders who have sought to reach out to the highest levels of the Afghan government, and they have done that,” General Petraeus said.

“Now President Karzai’s conditions are very clear, very established, and, certainly, we support them as we did in Iraq, as the British did in Northern Ireland,” he said. “This is the way you end insurgencies.”

A spokesman for President Karzai confirmed that there had been contacts at every level, but he cautioned that they still could not be characterized as even the beginning of negotiations.

“In the last few months, there have been signs and signals from different levels of Afghan Taliban,” said Waheed Omer, the spokesman.

“There are signs that they are ready for talks, and this intensified after the president announced the program of reintegration and reconciliation after the peace jirga,” he said, referring to a June peace assembly, adding, “but no formal negotiations or discussions have begun.”


There are going to be some – probably including Petraeus - who will argue that the Afghan Surge beat back the Taliban's ascending momentum and brought them to the negotiating table. The argument is laughable. There is no even slight "progress" in Afghanistan and if anyone was reluctant to come to the table – from word one – it was the U.S. under two administrations, not the Taliban. If anything, the Surge has been spun to save enough face that the U.S. and it's Western allies can now allow negotiations to proceed without looking like complete losers.

The signs have been there for a couple of years now that Karzai was simply tired of all the bloodshed and would make just about any deal if the fighting might end. Now, it seems that either the Taliban feel the same way too – after all, they also are Afghans – or they feel the US will finally do a deal of some kind. The basic preconditions for talks are there. It's early days yet, probably with several more years of NATO occupation of at least of part of Afghanistan to come and as Bernard Finel says, most of the issues of procedure and preconditions have yet to be resolved. But that's because most cannot be resolved without attempting to sit down and seeing how it all goes.

Looking forward to when talks do finally begin, the key players - outwith the Afghan government, US and Taliban – will be Pakistan and India, with China and Iran slightly more marginal, Russia and the rest of Afghanistan's near neighbours essentially getting what the central players decide. The likeliest regional spoiler is India – will it accept some form of return to the status quo ante bellum where Pakistan has some form of "strategic space" in Afghanistan through its sponsorship of the Taliban? What's going to be in it for India?

As for Petraeus: well, he's the general who took a demotion to rescue Afghanistan after his minion got canned, the man who will doubtless preside over at least a few more years of 130,000+ troops in-country (the argument will be that they're needed for security while talks play out, so no meaningful drawdown, folks) and he'll be front-and-center at negotiations no matter who else is involved. The Teflon General's career for the win! Whatever he decides to do after that, he'll get it.

But still, Petraeus' continuing messiahdom will probably be a small price to pay for this actual real, live light at the end of the tunnel…unless he decides to be president and figures he can do it all again in some other poor nation, of course.

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to “"This is the way you end insurgencies"”

  1. Dog Breeders says:

    Taliban has become a heinous terrorist group along with Al-Qaeda. The are doing most terrible and brutal attack not for the civilian but also the military.

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