Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

U.S. Moves to Accommodate the Taliban

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U.S. Moves to Accommodate  the Taliban

The situation in the country in light of the alleged killing of Osama bin Laden is poised to enter into a new phase, one which will see heightened efforts by all sides to accelerate the process of talks with Taliban and other insurgent groups. Last month, a high-level Pakistani delegation visited Kabul that consisted of the heads of major centers of power in Pakistan. The outcome of the negotiations was a massive shift in the position of the Kabul government towards Pakistan. The high level commission that will be formed to seriously pursue talks with Taliban will involve the chief executives and the heads of military and intelligence agencies of both the countries. It is a matter of certainty that the alleged killing of Osama bin Laden and its timing fit here into a larger regional narrative of which the April visit was a part.

The United States of America is fast running out of steam to stay the course in Afghanistan. It is slowly dawning upon the American officials that on many accounts the current American and allied troop level of 150,000 present in Afghanistan simply cannot be sustained beyond 2014. The expensive and deeply unpopular war in Afghanistan is fast turning into an open-ended attrition war that is placing insurmountable pressure on the delicate American finances. Currently, the U.S. and its military enjoy almost unlimited funding and money for their war in Afghanistan. With an economy in decline and the next financial and economic crisis looming on the horizon, the U.S. soon will be no longer able to afford its expensive war in Afghanistan in its current form and at this level of troops. At that point, the U.S.' willingness to quickly find a fix to the Afghan mess will overflow even if it would mean ceding Afghanistan to Taliban and their allies.

On the other hand, the U.S. is getting increasingly preoccupied with other emerging priorities in other parts of the world such as the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. These regional compulsions in addition to the declining American influence and clout in the broader region and finally learning the tough geopolitical and geostrategic realities of Afghanistan have all forced American policy makers to actually start thinking of giving up the ambitious plans they initially harbored for Afghanistan under George Bush and later Obama – a grand project of nation-building, making Afghanistan a flourishing democracy and a regional bulwark and citadel against terrorism and religious extremism. Therefore, the U.S. interests in Afghanistan are fast being reduced to just the goal of securing permanent/long-term military presence. It means the U.S. policy makers will in fact tolerate a Taliban regime in Kabul as long as they allow the U.S. to have its long-term military presence in Afghanistan by which to pursue its own regional plans elsewhere. Pakistan is well aware of the tenuous position of America in the Hindu Kush so it was no surprise when the Pakistani delegation in Kabul asked President Karzai, among other things, to embrace Pakistan as a strategic partner because the U.S.' regional power and bargaining power is declining. So what is the sum of all these developments? What then the future holds for our country Afghanistan and what will happen to the fledgling Afghan democracy, the Constitution and the future of the war, Taliban and talks and negotiations?

There are unmistakable signs of cracks appearing in the will of the U.S. to finish the progressive project it has been pursuing in Afghanistan since 2001. The aggregate of the forces and reasons discussed above are unfortunately forcing the U.S. and the international community that it leads in Afghanistan to settle for much less than what they initially intended. In America's new set of calculations for our country, Afghanistan doesn't need to be a flourishing democracy as long as the Taliban in power in Kabul will abstain from forging alliances with international terrorist groups bent on attacking the U.S. interests.

Barely three months ago, the U.S. government removed its terms and conditions for reconciliation with Taliban. The original three conditions - embracing the country's Constitution, renouncing violence and cutting off ties to Al-Qaeda – have been dropped in favor of giving a kick-start to the process of negotiations. Hillary Clinton the U.S. Secretary of State, sent a clear signal of the U.S.' new-found flexibility by saying that these three issues, instead of being preconditions, will be the "necessary outcomes of any negotiation". Whether or not the Taliban will eventually accept to seriously negotiate is entirely a different issue. What is important is that the will of the U.S. and all other countries to save Afghanistan from Taliban is weakening. Therefore, what is unfolding before our very eyes is in fact squandering and wasting this historic opportunity that has come the way of Afghanistan's people. Our government's sheer incompetence, mismanagement, corruption and lack of a vision for the future are also responsible for this shift of thinking in the U.S. and other countries that could have been our partners until the end.

The country's political system has proved to be too immature, engulfed in internal conflicts and chaos to be able to bravely and effectively rise against the existential threats ahead. The opposition, Parliament, intellectuals, politicians, civil society and all those who are supposed to mobilize and get mobilized and create mass awareness among the population are impotent and mere spectators to the events. There are sporadic movements taking place such as the one on Thursday in Kabul by two of the former high-ranking officials in the government. These rallies and gatherings demand accountability from the government and denounce any move that they deem as representing a sell-out to Taliban and their paymasters. However, such gatherings and emotional outpourings of love and hate cannot have any real and substantive impact beyond only temporary whipping up of emotions and pronouncement of opposition to the government. What needs to be done instead is a large-scale, real grassroots level movement within the framework of law and democratic free speech that can sternly demand accountability from the government and make the decision makers abide by the wishes, desires and wants of the people of Afghanistan in general.

Mehdi Rezaie is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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