Alex Massie

Talking to the Taliban

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Meanwhile in Afghanistan, Dexter Filkins reports in the NYT that talks have been taking place between the Taliban, the Afghan government and warlords such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Sirajuddin Haqqani as to how some kind of "peace" agreement could be reached in Afghanistan. As Mr Filkins drily notes, most, in fact all, of the terms for negotiation "seem incompatible" with American policy.

Still, in some senses, this may be the key part:

“America cannot win this war, and the Taliban cannot win this war,” Mullah Abdul Salaam Zaeef, a former Taliban ambassador and one of the intermediaries, said in an interview. “I have delivered this message to the Taliban.”

Maybe the US and its allies can win the war - more time! More resource! - but as the Afghan war enters its eight year, doesn't it seem quite possible that it - and we - can't? And if this is the case then the question becomes rather awkward: what do we do now? Now, perhaps the Americans can turn matters around and inflict sufficient pain upon the Taliban as to encourage them to accept an American-led peace agreement at some point in the middle-to-distant future. But, right now, doesn't it seem more probable that the war will only be ended by the Afghans themselves and that the chances of it resulting in the kind of Afghanistan we've promised to build are, shall we say, pretty unlikely. So what do we do then?

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietyafghanistan