Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has an interesting column entitled “Framework to end the Afghan war.” Ignatius is usually well wired into the White House, not to mention the intelligence community and Pentagon. His column describes how talks are underway to “narrow each side’s demands” to “irreducible essentials” so that a graceful withdrawal of NATO forces and a transition to a new government might take place. Per Ignatius, everyone now agrees that a military solution to Afghanistan is not achievable. He reduces the two sides’ demands to: Washington insists on no al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan and equal rights for women, while the Taliban insist only on complete removal of all foreign troops.
Though I believe that U.S. interests would have been best served by leaving Afghanistan in 2002 and I would support the Clint Eastwood formula that they should leave tomorrow, the settlement being negotiated sounds an awful lot like surrender, uncomfortably reminiscent of the Paris Peace Talks that ended the Vietnam war and led to the communist takeover of the entire country.
The Taliban have publicly defended peace talks as a “way to reach our goals,” which should sound ominous but apparently does not suggest anything to Ignatius. They also have reportedly agreed to “give all legitimate rights to women in the light of the Islamic principles, national interests and our noble culture.” As most would concede that the role of women in Afghanistan is largely cultural, it would not appear that women’s rights will be a priority under a new regime. And as al-Qaeda is in Pakistan rather than in Afghanistan, the prohibition on the terrorist group’s reemergence has little meaning apart from saving face over the casus belli for invading the country in the first place.
Does anyone seriously believe that the U.S. will re-invade Afghanistan if women are mistreated? If not, then any concession in that area is essentially unenforceable. And what about Hamid Karzai, the Emperor of Kabul? He is not likely to last for long after the U.S. troops pull out. Which pretty much returns us to the status quo ante of 2001, except for 2,000 dead American soldiers, at least 30,000 dead Afghans, and several hundred billion dollars wasted.