The Blog

Never Negotiate With the Taliban

What an incredible act of disrespect to the soldiers who died bravely to battle for Afghan freedom. What a betrayal of the poor downtrodden Afghans, promised an end to theocratic tyranny in 2001. Are we to simply leave, triumphantly, with a treaty or two, and expect everything to be fine?
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The G8 Summit has been seen as a resounding success for all major parties. Certainly those running the negotiation have achieved a lot, and the proposed trade deal between the United States and the European Union can only be seen as a good thing. But the news of this free market triumph was overshadowed by the stupid and capricious move to barter with the Taliban, and to carve up the future of a fragile, war-torn, nation between the hurriedly evacuating foreigners and the brutal theocrats who have all the time in the world to play for the land that was previously their fiefdom.

This move is not only a self-defeating quick fix; it also shows the rottenness of American statecraft during the Obama era. This President has not only pushed ahead with troop withdrawals despite the urgent need for coalition reinforcements following a dangerous year for the Afghan security forces, he has also done so for shallowly populist and electoral reasons. He wanted to be able to say that he was 'bringing "our boys" back home', and so he pledged to remove US forces faster than had been agreed.

This, in turn, pressured other nations to pull out faster than planned (after all, who wants to be 'in theatre' when the military might of America has vacated the premises?), and this jeopardised the security and reconstruction of an embryonic state, one that needs careful nurturing and outside assistance. This war was talked of as a possible thirty-year operation; it was never intended to be an easy in/out mission. So this speedy solution does come close to the estimated time-frame, and does not do what is needed. It barely covers the basics of what we wished to accomplish before leaving.

The possible symbolic rehabilitation of Britain, after centuries of exploitative colonialism, which nation building projects afforded, was a huge prize. But the swift need to exit the country has left dams unfinished, roads unconstructed and the country, and its logistics, not yet up to strength. President Karzai, as a nationalist, needed to say that the Afghans could look after themselves; it is part of his political platform. But the truth is that his government still exerts little influence outside the capital city, Kabul, and vast swathes of this country are still under the control of homicidal Islamist fanatics, who see terror as a legitimate means to achieve political end.

They are the enemy. There is no way that they can become allies, or even partners with whom we distastefully do business. To give them the legitimacy that the negotiating table provides is a dangerous and immoral action. They will not stop their bombing campaigns because of a few talks in Qatar. Since they disdainfully play with the tribal constructs of the region, they are a decentralised organ. Local leaders will still terrorise outposts of central government, or schools which dare to offer education to young girls.

They are not rational actors, and do not have intelligible political demands. The hatred shown by the Taliban is not created by an ethnic or geographical division which has escalated: they are crazed religious fundamentalists who have allied themselves with tribal conflicts. The Taliban seek their justification from a cruel and harsh deity; one which commands them to murder apostates and Jews. They will not be bought and sold with the promise of territorial concessions, and it is disgusting to even try and tempt them. When they get their logic from a higher power, and their code of honour from literal reading of a centuries-old dictation, we should understand that they will not be responsive to the normal rewards which dialogue can afford.

Are we forgetting the hell that Afghanistan was before the West stepped in? It is as if we have conveniently failed to remind ourselves that these people are not as pliant or democratic as other ostensibly Islamist parties; like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Remember the outrage when it first emerged that the Brotherhood would achieve power in post-Arab Spring elections? Are we really saying that after a decade of war, supposedly to protect those oppressed by Taliban monsters, that we are to give them a prominent role in the remoulding of the nation after our departure?

What an incredible act of disrespect to the soldiers who died bravely to battle for Afghan freedom. What a betrayal of the poor downtrodden Afghans, promised an end to theocratic tyranny in 2001. Are we to simply leave, triumphantly, with a treaty or two, and expect everything to be fine? While our leaders are happy to exploit mass sentiment, which is massively against the continuation of the war, they are not brave enough to go against public opinion, and transcend the selfish worldview espoused by the internationally illiterate inhabitants of the British Isles.

We are all too keen to get out as quickly as possible to care about the people we pledged to help. It seems that a little national dignity can be salvaged by striking a deal with our mass-murdering enemies of the last twelve years, and then away we go, happy to forget the locals and leave them to their internal strife. A good core of people, who term themselves "anti-war", have been calling for disengagement for a long while. But they are not against war; they are against war involving us. If foreigners want to kill themselves and each other, then that is no concern of ours, as long as we stay out of it.

What a poisonous and despicable doctrine this is. The clamour for a hasty retreat has led us to this sordid compromise with our ideological and military foes. What we do now, and how we choose to act, with regard to the Afghans under our protection, will determine the morality of the nation. If the government goes for short-term political and economic advantage over combating religious and political evil; merely for a few points in an opinion poll, then they have proven, to all Arabs, and citizens of the world, that the West cannot be expected to keep its promises.