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The Taliban Might Negotiate, Even If They Think They’re Winning

Posted by Just Foreign Policy on October 26th, 2010

From our partners at Just Foreign Policy

You can’t follow U.S. print media coverage of the war in Afghanistan for any length of time without running into some variation of the following assertion:

 

"The Taliban Will Never Negotiate, As Long As They Think They’re Winning."

No serious effort is usually made to substantiate this claim, which is asserted as if it were a self-evident truth. What you generally don’t see, reading the newspapers, is a sentence that looks like this:

 

"The Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they’re winning, and the reason that we know this is…."

Yet, if you look back over the course of the last year, the assertion that "the Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they’re winning" is a very important claim. Why did the U.S. send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan last year? Because "the Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they’re winning." Why are we killing innocents today in Kandahar? "Because the Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they’re winning."

A claim that is a key buttress of life and death decisions about people we have never met and know little about and who have no say in our decisions, and yet which has never been substantiated, is a claim that deserves sustained scrutiny.

How could it be a self-evident truth that "the Taliban will never negotiate, as long as they think they’re winning?" Logically, two possibilities present themselves:

1) It is an immutable fact of human nature that no party engaged in a conflict ever negotiates as long as they think they’re winning. The US never negotiates as long as it thinks it is winning; Britain never has; France never has; no guerilla army or insurgent movement ever has.

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