Friday, January 22, 2010
How does diplomacy make sense when dealing with Taliban?
News that Turkey plans to bring Afghanistan's often warring neighbors together at an international conference raises some interesting questions, but not all of them are good ones. While it seems like things can only get better in the region if the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan talk, their reported plans to invite Taliban leaders to join them is a sad miscalculation. Who can forget the Taliban's misogynistic misrule of Afghanistan from 1996-2001, their destruction of ancient statues of Buddha and their decision to protect Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader blamed by the United States for planning the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.? Who in their right mind would expect them to bring anything positive to negotiations? Well, Turkey, for starters. NATO's only Islamic nation has been actively engaged in behind-the-scenes talks to get Afghanistan, Pakistan and Taliban insurgents together in the week before a planned international conference on the future of Afghanistan in London, according to the Reuters international news service. "The Turks are playing a behind-the-scenes role patching up relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan," an unnamed official told Reuters. "The Turks are among those working on negotiations with the Taliban. There's a lot happening behind the scenes that people don't know about." Turkey has unique ties to both countries since the days of the Ottoman Empire, Reuters said. Afghanistan's discredited president, U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai, is said to be a major source behind trying to open negotiations with the Taliban. But the military defeat of the Taliban's ruthless government in 2001 is the very reason Karzai was elected in Afghanistan, and the reason why Western nations still support him despite a questionable re-election in November. And fighting a resurgent Taliban is why U.S. President Barack Obama announced in December that 30,000 additional troops would be sent there. Moves toward negotiations with the Taliban under these conditions do not make any sense.