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EU Foreign Policy Chief in Favor of Talks with the Taliban

Javier Solana, the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and a Spanish Fulbright Alumnus, said according to AFP that he backed the new Pakistani government's moves to hold talks with Taliban militants, but ruled out any negotiations with Al-Qaeda.

This puts Europe at odds with the United States, not just with the Bush administration, but also with all remaining presidential candidates. Even Barack Obama, who is willing to meet with Iran's President Ahmadinejad, seems to be against negotiations with Taliban. He wrote in Foreign Affairs last summer:

Our strategy must also include sustained diplomacy to isolate the Taliban and more effective development programs that target aid to areas where the Taliban are making inroads.

I agree with Niklas Keller, who argued in the Atlantic Community that "negotiations with the Taliban may be the West's most effective tool to successfully 'divide and conquer' the Afghani insurgency."

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Don S on :

Umm, no. 'Europe' may or may not be 'at odds' with the US, but not on Javier Solana's say so. This is a man who has to get permission to buy TP, metaphorically speaking. The pwer still resides in the national governments, not with the 'High Commissioner'.

Joerg - Atlantic Review on :

I don't have any numbers or statements from government officials, but I think more and more European politicians are supporting Solana on this one. And some Canadians as well... This was written on Atlantic Community in May 2007: [i]The idea of New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton to include the Taliban resistance in a political solution has gained increasing momentum in Ottawa recently. German Social Democratic Party chairman Kurt Beck suggested the same after a field trip to Afghanistan. One of Canada’s most distinguished foreign policy experts, Gordon Smith, former ambassador to NATO and ex-deputy minister of foreign affairs, concluded in a recent think tank paper that the war against the Taliban cannot be won and that Canada and its allies should reconsider their overall strategy.[/i] http://www.atlantic-community.org/index/Open_Think_Tank_Article/Canada's_Engagement_in_Afghanistan

Elisabetta on :

The major obstacle in having the Europeans engage with the Taliban is that there is no easy medium term in temporal duration or financial outlay. I think you could combine some tough love and get the Taliban to reconsider their reliance on the Wahhabis and Saudi oil money, but you would have to replace the Saudis as the area's benefactor. The EU/NATO would need loads of more troops and specialized organs to create (note, no repair or refurbish) a modern infrastructure. Who the hell speaks Pashto anyway? The US wanted no part of it. They maintain privately that the Afghanistan region is fucking atavistic backwater and what is the point; to quote Captain Darling: "it is not a reasonable use of our time or resources", especially for the probable or even potentially optimal net result. Not to be snide, but Europe, collectively, does not seem to have the heart for this type of hot, extended engagement. It would be great far-thinking and smurfy to train say 20,000 Albanians and Bosniaks and then ship them out to Afghanistan to smooth things out with their co-religionists but don't think Solano gets creative much.

Aamir Ansari on :

I don't think it would be too bad an idea. Pre 9/11 and since much before that, Taliban have ruled the region effectively. Initiating talks with them could straight away soften their offensive and consequently the insurgency. Thats my take but open comments.

Joe Noory on :

I have never heard so many people want to make the "making the trains run on time" argument. They did NOT administer effectively. They made teh massive outflow of people under the Soviets into permanent immigrants. The problem with a partial divide-and-conquer strategy is that it provides cover for the worst among the ones you've turned. If you think it's hard to bear the criticism of Afghans in fighting the Taliban it makes it particularly more difficult because people will live with something that looks like a prospective peace when you've just given enemy sympathists very little motivation to give up. While the time will come to reach resolution, it's probably too early. The outcome would be not unlike negotiating from a position of weakness, and I don't think anyone went this far to leave the Afghans with poor prospects of re-establishing a stable, pluralistic society.

Pat Patterson on :

Isn't the question of negotiating with the Taliban more in the realm of the responsibility of the Karzai government? The US and NATO, I'm stumped to see where the EU fits in here, can offer guarantees to both sides through intermediaries due to the political fallout such talks might have at home. Much of what Solana is arguing reminds me of Pres. Clinton after the change in control of the Congress claiming that he was still relevant. Though in Pres. Clinton's case he did still have a few rabbits left to pull out of the hat. While Solana is representing the should, coulda, woulda view of international power. But then again there simply doesn't really appear to be any need to negotiate except to determine, like the PIRA, in what context the Taliban will lay down their arms and then be bought off with bits of the government. And I must disagree with Gordon Smith as Gen. O'Neil has quite clearly stated that the old strategy of needing 1/2 million men was on paper (and also ignored the number of Afghans available) and that current thinking, witness the success of the US in calming Anbar and most of Baghdad and the complete defeat of the Sadrists in Basra with virtually no US troops and rump British regiments advising and fighting if needed, is that the force multipliers available to the West make that old, actually first thought of by Consul Marius in the First Century BC, passe.

Niklas Keller on :

Hi Joerg! First of, thanks for the cross-post =). Although it certainly is the responisbility of the Karzai government to enter into negotiations with the Taliban, they could desperately use some more clout on the negotiation table, which is currently eroded by both a reliance on warlords with at-best dubious attitude towards central authority in Kabul as the local security providers, as well as US acting independently of, and at times openly against, Afghan approaches on engaging the Taliban and development policy (read: letting the Afghan farmers grow their friggin' poppies for now, jesus!). Afghanistan is still a country in conflict - the appearance of a unified front on such policy approaches, or the lack thereof, can itself have an impact on the conflict. I would refrain from terminology such as "negotiating from a position of weakness", however, as this once again implies a false 'Us vs. Taliban' dichotmoy, which simply doesn't exist except in our heads. The reason negotations are on the table as an option is because some people are beginning to realize that the Taliban are not a monolithic bloc and can be fractured and weakened through co-option of moderate elements without betraying humanitarian and democratic values by striking deals with the hardliners. Of course, the other reason why negotiations are on the table is because of troop levels. Afganistan is bigger in terms of territory, has a greater population population, and is ethnically more mixed than Iraq. Yet, the troops needed to implement a clear-hold-build strategy the likes of which seems to have produced moderate successes in Iraq are all being used...well...in Iraq. Contrary to some opinions, the Europeans seem to have realised that they will have to do better - Germany now taking over from Norway with an additional 500 troops and France also having pledged reinforcements possibly numbering in the thousands. Both countries also seem committed to the long-term, if current political debates are any indicator. (On a side note, it will be interesting to see whether Britain will also step up its efforts in Afghanistan now that it's drawing down its forces in Iraq...). Yet, imposition of a military solution the likes of which pacified Kosovo would mean around 400,000 additional pairs of boots on the ground (Kosovo has a military-civilian ration of 1-8). Should I even mention that that won't happen? Co-option through negotiations is the only feasible choice.

franchie on :

I share the analyse there from le figaro (in french) : http://www.armees.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=45782 ... "The Western military elites generate no more TE Lawrence. But to win an asymmetrical war, to be efficient in the conter-guerrillas, we need officers who are in empathy with the people. For now, as in Iraq, Westerners are drawn into the spiral-attacks-repression-bunkérisation divorce from the population. The Western soldiers, whose convoys, "for security reasons", cross the Afghan cities knocking over everything in their path, are still unable to spare, among Afghans, their charaf (a mixture of honor, personal integrity, pride). It needs to be taught... Renewing with a "colonial expertise" to participate effectively in the reconstruction of a state, take time and money. But the game is worth the candle. You cannot again abandon Afghanistan, as we did in 1989, after the departure of Soviet troops. You cannot leave these mountains once again become a field training for jihadists worldwide. Westerners have to learn patience, and contradict the arrogance of the Taliban, that keep repeat to the environment: "You have watches, we have time!"

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