Has US Turned Afghanistan Corner?
Image Credit: ISAF Media

Has US Turned Afghanistan Corner?


The United States may have turned a corner in Afghanistan, but it’s not a military one. There are no signs that the Afghan war, now in its tenth year, is being won on the ground. But after long resisting the idea of direct talks with the Taliban leadership, sometime over the summer, the Obama administration reversed course. ‘This is the way you end insurgencies,’ said General David Petraeus, the top US commander in Afghanistan, who confirmed that the US-NATO coalition helped facilitate travel back and forth between Pakistan and Kabul by ‘senior Taliban commanders.’

According to press reports, the talks—held in Kabul and in Dubai—involved representatives of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban leadership council based in Quetta, Pakistan. Other reports said that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government had also held face-to-face talks with a second major component of the insurgency, the militant group led by Sirajuddin Haqqani, based in North Waziristan in Pakistan’s tribal areas. And earlier this year, a delegation from the third major faction, the Hizb-i Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, visited Kabul with a 15-point peace plan.

With Obama’s July 2011 deadline for the start of a US drawdown of forces in Afghanistan just nine months away, it appears that the United States is now actively exploring the possibility of a deal with Afghanistan’s armed opposition. The decision to talk reflects growing pessimism in Washington that the tripling of US forces over the past 18 months will succeed in its goal of ‘degrading’ the Taliban-led insurgency.

In fact, that very deadline might work as an incentive to bring the Taliban to the table, since the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan has long been the Taliban’s principal demand. Indeed, when Hekmatyar’s delegation visited Kabul, his spokesman averred that the July drawdown could serve as a starting point for talks about a US and NATO withdrawal.

Previously, the administration argued that the Taliban wouldn’t come to the table unless it felt that it was losing the war, and it designed a strategy to deliver punishing blows to the insurgency in order to convince its leaders that they’d have to accept US terms for ending the conflict. The administration supported only ‘reintegration,’ that is, the defection of low- and mid-level insurgent leaders to the Afghan government on a district-by-district basis. But it opposed ‘reconciliation,’ meaning a political accord with the most senior leaders of the overall Taliban movement, including the Quetta Shura leadership. Now, that’s changed.

Since 2009, Karzai has vociferously supported reconciliation, especially since an initiative he launched at a conference in London in January of this year in which he promised to reach out directly to the Taliban. Karzai’s initiative caught the United States off guard, and during the first half of this year the Obama administration clashed sharply with Karzai over the idea of talking to the Taliban. But Karzai persisted, convening a peace jirga last summer and then, in September, appointing a 70-member High Peace Council, led by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, to seek a deal.

Dan Kemp
November 20, 2010 at 03:24

The US suckered the USSR into invading Afghanistan? Dude, come on, puff puff pass. That was the CARTER ADMINISTRATION. Carter couldn’t have organized a cadet field trip to an amusement park.

Taking Afghanistan was intended to 1, quiet an Islamic spark plug on Moscow’s volatile southern border, and 2, put them closer to Pakistan. Why? If the USSR could take and hold Pakistan, that gives them the port of Karachi. A warm-water port without geographic barriers to the sea has been a driving motive in Russian foreign policy going back to Peter the Great.

October 22, 2010 at 09:43

@JoJo, I just want to say that America is dealing with the same group of people that first pushed back the Russians(with America’s help) which, had the USA in stalemate over the Cold war. When Russia invaded, being secretly helped by America was a sound strategic move, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. And yes weakening both parties to some extent. @Danny i, you make further reference to this. However, America fails to understand that it is fighting the same generation (give or take) that pushed back the Soviets, the same world super power that had America in stalemate.

I refer to the Anglo-Boer War in South Africa. Farmers vs British Army employing same hit and run tactics and guerrilla war fare was able to at least make it incredibly difficult for the British in their occupation. All that I am saying, you have farmers and cattle herders, who are naturally toughened through experiences they endure daily, who know the land like the back of their hand. I would like to know the logic behind the west insisting that a modern army needs to be trained in Western way when traditional strategies seem to be working just fine.

Getting a bit conspiratorial, “This war is not meant to be won, but sustained”, Zeitgiest (2007).

Much like Vietnam, which Danny i makes a good point talking about the illogic of withdrawing and what that would do to USA imperialistic image.

Further more, have we all been told to use the words “draw down?” Predominantly a financial term but I suppose it could be used to replace the other good words like withdraw, back down, retreat.

Rome is burning…

October 22, 2010 at 01:56

In a maze, there’s always another corner to be turned.

October 21, 2010 at 21:30

Notice some of Obama’s shipmates(rats) are jumping ship–first?
Let’s give credit to Obama,he at least did NOT attack Iran by August 2010 as his handlers wanted. Now you know why the media is gunning to replace him in 2012. Regarding Afaghastan, this land had NOTHING to do with the 9/11 attacks. The Russians were suckered to attack by the Americans,to soften up the resistance and for USA to come in for the finial kill. As they did to Germany and Iraq.
America will attack Iran and plans for China–wants the bleeding cycles stops :^/

October 21, 2010 at 19:26

For me every new administration has to follow the foot steps of the past and they can,t deviate from the policies. What Obama has added innocent killings in Pakistan through drone attacks.There is no doubt americans have to leave when is a big question? They are willing and doing to put India as the big gainer in this war of interest and will mean there will be no peace in Afghanistan and India is not amrica.
Peace we need for the poor people and compensations for the millions killed in this war from america simple apology will not work. In some or the other form americans must be fined as the others have been. Naturally in future will be easier.
Americans have promissed Musharraf to force India on Kashmir but failed to do so for their own interest.

Danny i
October 21, 2010 at 16:54

The central problem is, Obama is both an Imperial believer(just read his Audacity of Hope bio)AND a prisoner of the Military-Industrial-Financial Complex. POTUS 44 at first thought he could reverse the Empire’s string of military losses by escalating the violence in Afghanistan(but he and his “surge-on generals” are failing miserably). And by escalating, the White House Occupier got trapped into a “can’t lose face by withdrawing” syndrome–much like Richard Nixon’s “the USA will be seen as a pitiful impotent giant if we quit Vietnam” illogic. In addition, Obama picked the same myopic Imperial warhawks to be his top advisors; hence, their options for him include surging with 40,000 more GI invaders, or quadrupling the number of robotic and Special Forces assassins, or BOTH. The disastrous result is that the USA empire is repeating exactly what the Soviet Union did a quarter of a century ago: going bankrupt in pursuit of an unwinnable Imperialist Occupation. Except in the current American case, we(meaning the ruling elite in the M-I-F Complex)dug our own hole into this Central Asian “Graveyard of Empires.” Well, both of you NeoCONs and NeoLIBs, you’re doing heckuva job!!

October 21, 2010 at 13:19

“‘This is the way you end insurgencies”, yes, especially when you´re loosing the war. Only those Talibs who are not fighting are likely to hold talks with Petrakarzai. Omar won´t negotiate, we all know that.

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