The International Crisis Group has a new report out showing that the so-called reconciliation talks with the Taliban are actually going nowhere, and that civil war could result from a US continuing to lead those talks. The think tank believes that responsibility should shifted to the United Nations.
In a report released Sunday, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group said that current negotiations were unlikely to achieve a sustainable peace because they were dominated by the U.S. and hampered by a “half-hearted and haphazard” approach by the Afghan government.
“Far from being Afghan-led, the negotiating agenda has been dominated by Washington’s desire to obtain a decent interval between the planned U.S. troop drawdown and the possibility of another bloody chapter in the conflict,” said the report.
The ICG said that the result thus far of international involvement in negotiations had been to embolden “spoilers” like insurgents, government officials and war profiteers, “who now recognize that the international community’s most urgent priority is to exit Afghanistan with or without a settlement.”
In a way, this is a recapitulation of an argument that the Bush Administration made in Iraq, that you cannot set a date certain for withdrawal, because “they’ll wait us out.” But it’s compounded by the Obama Administration having the modus operandi in the talks, according to the ICG, of just getting out with the roof still intact and putting enough space between withdrawal and the roof collapsing that it can be blamed on somebody else. That’s highly cynical, but not much would surprise me at this point.
I think it’s clear that US policy is moving toward an exit from Afghanistan, while the elements of a civil war stay in place there. What I’m less clear about is whether the US can really do anything to stop that. Our presence has arguably fueled the civil war rather than prevented it. But a peace negotiation between the Taliban and the Afghan government that doesn’t involve the Afghan government just won’t work over the long term. I don’t know that the “Afghan government” really even exists outside the borders of Kabul, however, which is another drawback.
The ICG is basically calling for a loya jirga, which involves all ethnic groups to come to an agreement, rather than just a narrow set of warlords and power brokers. I’m not sure what the UN can do to broker peace, but some third party acceptable to everyone needs to deal with the aftermath of withdrawal. Unless we’re just up and leaving again, sowing more hatred, the kind that created the Taliban in the first place.