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Daily View: Exiting Afghanistan

Clare Spencer | 09:32 UK time, Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Commentators discuss the exit strategy from Afghanistan and whether there should be talks with the Taliban.

Richard Norton-Taylor says in the Guardian that he is waiting for talking with the Taliban to start:

Afghan girl and soldier

"There is no military solution, Britain's generals and their political masters agree. The only question is when to talk to the enemy. The smartest generals, including Sir Graeme Lamb, former adviser to sacked General Stanley McChrystal, and smartest diplomats - notably Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, Britain's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, who has just resigned - believe the time to talk to the Taliban is now. That view is shared by MI6, which has long advocated talking to the enemy, whoever it may be."

Jonathan Rugman at Channel 4 News argues that although US strategists don't seem to be on board, support for talks with the Taliban is growing:

"Talking to your enemy is not exactly a new idea, but the fact that Britain's most senior soldier is endorsing it, at the very moment when Britain's war dead surpasses the three hundred mark, provides the latest clue to military and government thinking on the major foreign policy issue of our time.
"From talking to Whitehall officials, my sense is that those who do nothing but think about Afghanistan have concluded that talking to the Taliban must happen as soon as possible, because the military strategy- retooled by General Stanley McChrystal last year and implemented this summer - is producing disappointing results. I think General Richards knows this, and that his supposedly "private view" is being aired now as a very deliberate and public warning to the United States that they must engage, as Britain is, with the idea of a negotiated retreat - though of course nobody will couch it in these terms."

The Telegraph editorial suggests there is a growing logic in talking to the Taliban:

"The military effort can help to reduce the Taliban's ability to destabilise the government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president; but the ultimate solution to the conflict lies in a lasting political settlement. There are undoubtedly elements within the Taliban, such as Mullah Omar, the movement's founder, who have no interest in reaching a deal, and remain intent on establishing the uncompromising form of Islamist theocracy that terrorised the country prior to the September 11 attacks. But they are the minority. The majority of Pashtun tribesmen who support the Taliban do so because they feel disfranchised by Mr Karzai's government, which relies heavily on the minority Tajiks and Uzbeks for its support."

Ross Douthat argues in the New York Times that a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan would be bad in the long term:

"The bleakness of this Plan B is the best argument for giving our military the time it needs to try to make a counterinsurgency succeed. We can't hold the current course indefinitely, and we won't: President Obama's decision to set a public deadline was a mistake, but everyone knows there are limits to how long the surge of forces can go on. But of the options this White House seems willing to consider, it's the one that holds out hope of enabling a real withdrawal from Afghanistan."
Andrew Sullivan says in the Atlantic that Mr Douthat's views are flawed as it is not worth staying in Afghanistan purely to control Pakistan:
"The question remains: does occupying Afghanistan recruit more than 50 terrorist for al Qaeda? At 51 new Jihadists, we are creating more terror than we are defeating in Afghanistan. And since the only way to tackle al Qaeda in Pakistan is by exactly the kind of tactics that Biden - and not Petraeus - has suggested for Afghanistan, one has to ask if pursuing counter-insurgency in one place and counter-terrorism in another is ... well, spectacularly incoherent. You get all the human and fiscal cost of counter-insurgency occupation and all the blowback and Jihadist-recruitment of counter-terrorism."

Links in full

Richard Norton-Taylor | Guardian | Afghanistan: the wait for talks to start
Telegraph | Talking to the Taliban
Jonathan Rugman |Channel 4 News | Talking with the Taliban
Ross Douthat |New York Times | One Way Out
Andrew Sullivan | Atlantic | Getting Warmer

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