Art of the bad deal: Talking to the Taliban & leaving Afghan government in the lurch

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 31, 2019

Part of the time I was in Afghanistan – living and working on the US Embassy compound for a year – Ryan Crocker was ambassador. Although ambassadors normally expect – and receive – ostentatious, even if faux reverence from those over whom they have authority, Mr Crocker was the sort of person one would regard with enormous respect anyway.

This is a long lead-in to why it is entirely unsurprising Mr Crocker recently spoke out against the Trump administration’s deal with the Taliban.

Mr Crocker told it like it is. He laid bare the terrible truth about the deal being negotiated by the Trump administration to exit Afghanistan speedily, caring nothing for what happens afterwards.

As Mr Crocker has written:

“Now the United States is negotiating directly with the Taliban. A framework agreement was announced on Monday calling for a cease-fire that could lead to the full withdrawal of US troops. The Taliban would commit to not harboring terrorist organizations that could threaten U.S. security. In other words, the Taliban promised no 9/11 replay.”

Then, he gets to the nub of the whole sorry matter:

“The framework was reached without the involvement of the Afghan government. The Taliban has said all along that it refuses to negotiate with the government, considering the government the illegitimate puppet of the US occupation. By acceding to this Taliban demand, we have ourselves delegitimized the government we claim to support.

To my mind, that last sentence is the most important truth of them all. After 18 years of military involvement in Afghanistan, Donald Trump is taking America out, clutching no more than a vague agreement that no plot will be hatched on its soil again and caring nothing for the Afghan government, the institutions set up and paid for by me (and other US taxpayers).

In any case, doesn’t it sound ridiculous to seek a promise from the Taliban there will be no 9/11 replay? Why should we believe a promise made by a group that is ideologically  in sync with jihadist entities, such as Al Qaeda?

What if Al Qaeda or a similar group asked a future Taliban government of Afghanistan that it needed a training ground and that it would absolutely not plan any operation against the US? No one, perhaps not even the Taliban, would know the supplicant would keep their word.

The Taliban’s propensity to view the world as if no time has passed since the seventh century coming of Islam makes them ill-equipped to govern in the 21st century.

So, what sort of an arrangement is Trump’s America doing with the Taliban? One as vague, unviable and nonsensical as Mr Trump’s supposed agreement with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

Oh, and unethical and callous too.