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More on Taliban Rejection of the Karzai Talks

Over at Aviation Week’s Ares blog, Paul McLeary has a good and comprehensive overview of what smart counterinsurgents think should be done with respect to Karzai-Taliban talks. (Via Small Wars Journal.)

In addition to some of the perspectives I’ve highlighted before (Dave Kilcullen, Joe Collins) Nate Fick thinks the Karzai government and its U.S. allies need to hold off on negotiating until their fortunes in the war improve — to get into “a position of strength where negotiation is an option,” in Fick’s words — and John Nagl thinks compelling some deeper detente between India and Pakistan is a prerequisite for Pakistan to be able to focus on its own Taliban problem. As Paul observes, this makes both Fick and Nagl’s positions fairly congruent with Collins’ argument. They’re also not so far from Kilcullen’s.

Then Paul poses some questions of his own:

The problem is, if the Taliban continue to remain as elusive as they are deadly, when does it become time to start talking? And won’t they approach the idea of negotiations with the same calculus of power and weakness?

Good questions. I suppose there’s no better answer than to say “when they start suffering military defeats, then it’s time to start negotiating,” despite that being an unsatisfying and subjective response. Perhaps it’s not necessary to view this as a sequence, where negotiations follow military engagements. Might it be more fruitful to have Karzai keep his offer to negotiate as a standing one, open to any element of the Afghan insurgency that wants to take him up? I freely admit I’m winging this, but I wonder.

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