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The US has a losing hand in talks with Taliban – analysis

CM 11/08/2021


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The US has gone from producing movies like 12 Strong about how US special forces fought alongside Abdul Rashid Dostum to take Mazar-i Sharif from the Taliban to telling the Taliban that if they retake Afghanistan they will be isolated. It is quite a reversal of fortune for Washington – from supporting the insurgents to unseat the Taliban – to seemingly beg the Taliban in Qatar not to take over Kabul.
US officials would likely not describe this as begging, but rather telling the Taliban that if they retake the country that they will be treated as “pariahs” according to one account of the meetings held in Doha. However, the Taliban are the ones who seem to be holding court in meetings in Qatar, China, Russia, and through discussions in Pakistan and even with Turkey. The Taliban have warned Turkey, for instance, against Ankara expanding its presence in Afghanistan as Turkey has vowed to run Kabul International Airport as the US and NATO members withdraw.
The US is trying to persuade the Taliban while holding an openly losing hand. This is because since the Trump administration the US has given Zalmay Khalilzad the unenviable task of wrapping up the Afghan war. Without a Clausewitz-style backup plan, the US is left asking the Taliban for a favor, basically. In a week the Taliban have grabbed  five provincial capitals.
There are around 29 left to go, but maps show the Taliban has influence over large parts of the countryside. The AP notes “after a 20-year Western military mission and billions of dollars spent training and shoring up Afghan forces, many are at odds to explain why the regular forces have collapsed, fleeing the battle sometimes by the hundreds. The fighting has fallen largely to small groups of elite forces and the Afghan air force.”

It remains a mystery where all the money went that the US and NATO members put into training and other work in Afghanistan. Comparisons have been made with the collapse of South Vietnam but it took two years for Saigon to fall after the US left. It’s not entirely clear if Kabul can hang on so long. Many countries have been evacuating their citizens or asking them to leave.
The messaging from Washington about how the US “vows to isolate the Taliban” already doesn’t hold water. The Taliban are not isolated. In July, they met Iranian officials and Russian officials. They were also in Russia in January. In late July, Taliban spokesman Mohammed Naeem said a Taliban delegation met with Chinese officials in the Chinese city of Tianjin. The New York Times called it a “warm welcome” and noted “Chinese officials have met with Taliban envoys before, including a meeting in Beijing in 2019, but not at such a high level.”
ABC News in Australia said Beijing is pegging regional hopes for stability on the Taliban. Ankara said it would talk to the Taliban in mid-July and Qatar, where the US has a large base, has frequently hosted the Taliban.
Is anyone not hosting the Taliban and senior Taliban delegations? Western countries for the most part do not seem to be meeting them. Countries far away, such as in South America, don’t seem to be hosting them either. But many other countries are.
The Taliban are the jet set these days, globetrotters, and they seem to be getting more of a red carpet than the Afghanistan government. Even the US appeared to sideline the Afghan government in the talks with the Taliban over the last several years.
The US has said it can use some airpower to support the Afghan government, but the reality is that the airport has been slow and airstrikes are few and far between. This is not how battles are won. The US isn’t even doing a version of Nixon’s infamous “Christmas Bombing’ or Operation Linebacker II which was launched on December 18, 1972, and saw some 20,000 tons of bombs dropped on North Vietnam.
The US may be using the same types of B-52s these days, but it doesn’t look likely to be pounding the Taliban much. The Taliban appear to know this. When an adversary knows you won’t resort to force and the most you can do is tell them they will be isolated, and they aren’t isolated, then the adversary will continue moving forward and call your bluff.

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CM

The host of Coffee Mouth Scare Crow Show and CEO of 452 Impact, Inc. Here is food for thought. Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." John 3:16 "For God so love ed the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall be saved."

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