War war not Jaw Jaw

With the clock ticking, and with the outgoing commander Stanley McChrystal’s report that the war in Afghanistan is faltering badly, a number of commentators have argued that we should find a way out by talking with the Taliban.

There are two problems with this. First, like most soft power and diplomacy, it needs hard foundations. We can only credibly negotiate from a position of strength. The US-led coalition will not be able to impose itself in talks if it is working towards the exits and demonstrably unable to outgovern the Taliban.

Secondly, the enemy may not want to talk anyway. This should not be hard to grasp, since an absolute rejection of negotiation has been our policy at different times during the War on Terror.

So lets get this straight: the Taliban are getting more lethal. the war is getting more expensive. public support is eroding. Karzai our client is weak, ineffectual and seen as illegitimate by many Afghans. the enemy won’t even talk, let alone surrender or compromise. we can’t fight our way out. we can’t talk our way out. and there is no strong state through which to govern our way out. political time is about to run out, the treasury is being emptied and the public have had enough. maybe the Taliban know victory when they see it.

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