Thursday, February 07, 2008

Talking to the Taliban

Bill Roggio writes that despite the continued failure to reach "peace accords" with the Taliban, the Pakistani government continues to pursue a political settlement. Pakistan's interior minister has ordered the formation of a "peace jirga" to negotiate with Baitullah Mehsud, a man with close ties to al Qaeda, who boasted of killing Benazir Bhutto.

There is a body of opinion which holds that the key to peace in Afghanistan lies in returning the Taliban to a seat of power. Here's a summary of British efforts to implement this policy. Revealed: British plan to build training camp for Taliban fighters in Afghanistan - Asia, World - . Canoneer has an even more extensive review of the theory behind this.

There is probably some element of "making a virtue out of a necessity" in this preference for negotiations. The British are short on resources and the Germans have flatly refused to deploy their troops to southern Afghanistan. It may be the case that NATO simply cannot afford to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, let alone Pakistan. Hence, the refrain "let's make a deal" is bound to be heard not because its sound is sweet but because it is the only platter in the jukebox.

Matters have now come to a head. Condoleeza Rice and the British Foreign Minister are bound for Afghanistan, probably to figure out what to do next. Here's what VOA reports:

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband have made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province, a former Taliban stronghold....

In London Wednesday, Rice said NATO forces are facing a "real test" in Afghanistan, and stressed that alliance members must share the burden of combat against the Taliban. Rice said NATO countries need to understand that the alliance is fighting an armed insurgency in Afghanistan and not simply participating in a peacekeeping mission.

NATO defense ministers are scheduled to meet this week in Lithuania. U.S., British, Canadian and Dutch troops have most of the NATO combat burden in the most perilous southern regions of Afghanistan. Canada has threatened to pull its troops from the country next year unless other allies send reinforcements.

My guess is that the Free Rider principle will prevail. Certain European publics will simply refuse to vote any more resources to the mission. That will force the balance of the coalition to carry more of the burden.


Blogger Rodney Graves said...

John Bull is Dead.

Time to amend the "Coalition of the Willing" to the "Coalition of the Willing and Able" which will of course not include NATO. Time also to let the operators do their thing in Pakistan. It would just be a real pity if the strike which kills Baitullah Mehsud also killed the "peace jirga." Yep, just a crying shame.

2/07/2008 07:10:00 AM  
Blogger herb said...

Rice and by extension Bush has been coopted (neutered) by the State/CIA Permanent Government. Paks going down the tubes with 100+ documented WMD.
Nobody on the horizon to help. McCain? not without Congress (those of it whom he has not offended and to whom he remains useful are few)
Hillary? not unless its easy and to her advantage (hard to justify universal healthcare on the basis of saving Western Civ.)
Obama? .......
Now what? Armies run on money. Congress is still going to be in BDS for at least 2 and maybe four years after 2008.
This remains an existential struggle, but the recognition of it has waned. To get it going again, the West (US, Australia, Japan) and the Rest (China, India, some others) has to admit that there are "those who want us dead" (tm) and it is best to kill them before they kill us.
See Gingrich

2/07/2008 09:49:00 AM  
Blogger herb said...

baffled by html links.

2/07/2008 09:51:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Thanks for the plug, wretchard. Got some more:

Sites are being chosen for a five-year program to train and equip the Frontier Corps

in a counterinsurgency environment the best force to use is generally taken to be indigenous security force

It's the Pashtuns we need to focus our combat anthropologists on. 70-to-71 percent of all incidents occurred in 10 percent of the districts. Where are the Pashto-fluent FID operators we ought to have after six years?

2/07/2008 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

I can't prove it, but my perception has been managed by somebody to make me think the Germans don't want to get too far away from Termez and the safety of the Uzbek frontier. Everybody down in RC South is going to be SOL when the Taliban cut the Karachi road. When, not if.

2/07/2008 11:27:00 AM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

The cheap way of controlling this problem is via the eventual use of nuclear weapons, which is the direction we slide every time the Europeans decide to sit on their hands.

This may prove, on the heels of some disastrous attack, to be the only way we can persuade Muslim societies that they have to take responsibility for what happens within their borders.

Chirac understood this, and pointed out not so long ago that a nuclear retaliation coming from Europe is a real possibility (as a practical matter the Europeans don't have much else to threaten with).

Should this come about, history will record that those who could have joined the effort to prevent it but declined, either to burnish their self-esteem by staying above the fray or just to save the expense, bear most of the responsibility.

2/07/2008 11:29:00 AM  
Blogger Nomenklatura said...

Just in case we need any clearer signposts, NATO's top military officers are spelling it out:

"Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, Nato told"

2/07/2008 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Nukes won't accomplish much in the Hindu Kush. Too many caves. We won't get 'em all, and the survivors will be pissed. Not to mention that Pakistan, India and China all have nukes to use on us if we irradiate large portions of their counties.

The WMD that kills only Pashtuns hasn't been invented yet.

You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life--but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men in the mud.

2/07/2008 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger Alexis said...

It is becoming increasingly clear that many of America's European allies are becoming strategic liabilities for the United States and Afghanistan. The morale of our allies is sufficiently low that it would be wiser for Hamid Karzai to ask them to leave.

Multinational forces have often been liabilities. One need only remember the effectiveness of poorly equipped Romanian troops during the battle of Stalingrad to illustrate the folly of relying upon half-hearted auxiliaries to man strategic lines. Just as some of the Soviet Union’s greatest victories at Stalingrad were against Romanian troops, and some of Rome’s greatest victories in the Punic Wars were against Carthaginian allies, the behavior of our European allies is increasing the chances that al-Qaeda will selectively attack our European allies for similar effect.

In any case, the entire project of protecting Europe is in question. If Europeans refuse to fight when America’s security is in danger, it becomes increasingly evident that our European allies seek to reap all of the benefits for themselves and impose all of the costs onto the United States, turning NATO into an asymmetrical arrangement with Europe as the master and America as the servant. Although I would not favor abolishing NATO entirely, it may be wise to downgrade it into a logistical alliance.

Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that NATO is a meaningful alliance.

2/07/2008 01:04:00 PM  
Blogger El Baboso said...

I suspect that there will be mercenary armies employed before we choose to use nukes.

Mercs don't have to mean the downfall of a nation. They certainly didn't cause the downfall of the British Empire. But then the British were willing to place millions of their own young men under arms right to the very end. I don't think that mercs will be a supplement this time round. They will be a replacement.

2/07/2008 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger Rodney Graves said...

el babosa,

See Kratman, Thomas: A Desert Called Peace and Carnifex

2/07/2008 07:44:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Nukes will do quite nicely if we hit Pakistan's nukes first. By surprise. Then hit places where proliferating nukes are. Such as Iran. Or use nukes to attack infrastructure so nuclear material just sits there.

We are getting to first strike territory.

2/07/2008 08:01:00 PM  
Blogger Cannoneer No. 4 said...

Nuke 'em all. Let Allah sort 'em out.

Now where have I heard that before?

Oh, yeah. It was on a T-shirt advertised in the back of a Soldier of Fortune Magazine.

Nuke the Eastern Hemisphere from Morocco to Mindanao and solve the terrorist problem once and for all.

2/07/2008 09:12:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Nomenklatura: The cheap way of controlling this problem is via the eventual use of nuclear weapons, which is the direction we slide every time the Europeans decide to sit on their hands.

Bingo! Amid Europe's constant accusations of American unilateralism, it is they and their stubborn inaction that most actively precipitates nuclear conflict.

2/10/2008 06:59:00 PM  

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