The U.S. needs to talk with the Taliban according to the latest State Department communications. At a press briefing in late July, State Dept. Spokesperson Heather Nauert had this to say in response to a question about Afghanistan in the context of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s policy review.
QUESTION: What tools does the Secretary envision to turn around the conflict in Afghanistan?
MS NAUERT: Well, I think one of the things that the Secretary feels very strongly about is trying to develop – get to a place where we can have some sort of a peace process. And that means actually sitting down and talking with members of the Taliban and starting to facilitate that kind of dialogue.
Ultimately, like in many situations in many other countries, military options or our military strategy is not necessarily going to win those countries and put peace back together. It’s part of it. It’s part of it. But in the long run, you have to bring both sides to the table or multiple sides to the table together to determine their future.
QUESTION: So am I reading correctly he’s not pro the military option?
MS NAUERT: Well, I’m not – I mean, that’s a piece of it. Of course, the military option is a piece of it.
This, in and of itself, is not that remarkable. But, what is is the follow-up from this morning’s Sputnik News piece where it was confirmed by Faruq Farda that the U.S. has finally begun negotiating with the Taliban. To what end, is the question at this point.
Leaving aside Mr. Farda’s obvious bias while speaking to Sputnik, the fact that the U.S. now feels diplomacy has a place at the table in ending the conflict there is an outright admission that the sixteen-year war in Afghanistan has accomplished nothing.
The Taliban Shuffle
For months, Russia and China have been spear-heading a peace process between the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan and the Taliban. The goal is to include the Taliban in the political process and begin stabilizing the country.
Pakistan was given the lead in the negotiations to facilitate regional relations and begin mending the rift between the neighboring countries. The success of China’s New Silk Roads project depends on this.
Russia’s security depends on it. So, the U.S. is there to blunt these ambitions in support of the Brzezinski/Wolfowitz Doctrine of central Asian chaos to prevent a full-flowering of Russian and Chinese potential.
Multiple meetings since December 2016 have taken place in support of this plan. India has done its best to sabotage these talks in support of the U.S. and the Saudis played their part by getting the Pakistani military to push Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif out of office.
Now, the U.S. is talking with the Taliban to muddy the waters and offer deals to continue slowing the process down.
This part of Mr. Farda’s analysis of the situation rings true.
Pragmatism vs. Idealism
The situation in Afghanistan, like in many geopolitical hotspots around the world, is rapidly becoming a tug-of-war between the pragmatic reality of the costs of Empire vs. the ideological fervor of the older neoconservatives like John McCain and George Soros.
And President Trump’s desire to break down the existing geopolitical order has to rise above his inherent mercantilism and protectionist bent.
In an earlier article, I put forth the idea that Trump may be pushing everyone to their breaking point on North Korea’s nuclear ambitions to craft a larger deal; to force China, with Russia’s support, to be the guarantor of North Korea’s behavior in lieu of U.S. military intervention.
Failing that, the pressure invokes an internal response that ends Kim Jong Un’s reign through popular uprising or military coup. Trump has rejected Russia and China’s initial offer on North Korea. He wants more guarantees.
But to get more from them, Trump will have to give on something beyond just standing down militarily. And that something may be Afghanistan. He’s unhappy with the advice he’s been given and sent his military advisors, grumbling, to come up with better plans.
Personally, I think he may just be buying time to keep the pressure on China.
A pullout from Afghanistan if negotiations with the Taliban fail would be the tit for North Korea’s tat.
And it would win Trump tremendous points with the base back home on two major issues – denuclearizing North Korea and bringing the troops home from Afghanistan. He does this while Congress is on recess and it sets him up well for a budget and debt ceiling fight as we approach positioning for the 2018 primaries.
Because Trump has so much to gain by this I have to feel this is the most likely course of action for him. It’s a dangerous game of brinksmanship, no doubt.
If Tillerson’s State Dept. is actually serious about talking with the Taliban that we’ve been fighting for sixteen years, the question is what are we talking about? Withdrawal or poison-pilling any rapprochement with Pakistan to further push the Russians to the breaking point?
My guess is it’s the former more than the latter.
As Commander-in-Chief Trump can order the troops home tomorrow. But, he can’t do that without winning somewhere else or it’ll be his last act as President.