U.S. Withdraws 33,000 Troops Without Taliban Peace Deal
Source Dave Anderson
Date 12/10/07/22:40

U.S. Withdraws 33,000 Troops Without Taliban Peace Deal
Tom Hayden

AS PREVIOUSLY reported by the Peace and Justice Resource Center, the
US combat presence in Afghanistan is winding steadily down while
political gridlock in Washington is sabotaging the possibility of a
negotiated settlement with the Taliban. Hell may lie ahead if
purgatory cannot be negotiated.

The long-time focus of peace advocates in Congress, like
representatives like Barbara Lee, Dennis Kucinich, Jim McGovern and
others, has been on setting timetables for troop withdrawals and
funding cuts – while never holding exit strategy hearings or charting
a parallel diplomatic course out of the quagmire.

Fearing the taint of “talks with the Taliban,” the Obama
administration has pursued diplomatic avenues far off-camera, and with
little result. Arranging a settlement though Pakistan has been
impossible because of the escalating US drone flights and strikes over
and on sovereign Pakistan territory. The recent US listing of the
Haqqani warlord network, under US Republican pressure, as a “foreign
terrorist organization” terminates any possible power-sharing role for
that well-organized force on the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Republican-led opposition in Congress to any swap of Taliban prisoners
at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for American Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl leaves
US diplomacy stranded during a decisive time in the conflict.

The prisoner swap was conceived as a confidence-building measure that
would lead to broader diplomatic steps aimed at a settlement. But the
US refusal, combined with the terrorist designation of the Haqqanis,
reinforced the hard-liners in the insurgent leadership and left more
diplomatic and pragmatic elements empty-handed. (See also in the New
York Times, “A Pointless Blacklisting,” September 12, and “US
Abandoning Hopes for a Taliban Peace Deal,” New York Times, October 2,

Talks conceivably could begin in Qatar around the prisoner swap and if
the US agrees to a Taliban office being established there. That
possibility is being ditched at least during the presidential
election, “leaving too little time to reach a deal before 2014, some
current and former American officials said.” (New York Times, October
2, 2012)

Each day that passes means declining leverage for the US around issues
such as women's rights and education, which the Americans might insist
on as part of a negotiated withdrawal settlement.

The diplomatic standstill is accompanied by the American failure on
the battlefield to seriously set back the Taliban during the now-ended
“surge” of 33,000 troops since 2009. The steady reduction of the
present 68,000 US troops to as few as 35,000 next year, and at least
90 percent troop withdrawal by the end of 2014, means that the Karzai
regime will be weakening and the Taliban militarily strengthened in
the absence of any diplomatic-political arrangement. In an example of
his inner circle tightening, Karzai has appointed as his new spy chief
Asadullah Khalid, accused of torture and narco-trafficking by a
high-ranking Canadian diplomat while Khalid was in charge of Kandahar
Province. Under current law, Karzai is prohibited from running for
re-election in 2014, potentially an opportunity to transition to a
different power-sharing arrangement. But Karzai now looks more like

It may be that the Taliban have no interest in a negotiated
power-sharing arrangement with the corrupt Karzai regime in Kabul. But
the Taliban remain widely unpopular in regions of Afghanistan, and
military over-confidence on their part could re-ignite a civil war.
Based on the Vietnam-era “enclave” proposals, some sort of interim
geographic partition might stabilize the country as long as the
international community backs a transition to new elections that
respect the country's ethnic chasms. A force of peacekeepers from
non-aligned nations might well be part of a negotiated settlement as
well. But not if no one is talking.

It is highly doubtful that Obama will backtrack on his pledged path of
withdrawals by late 2014. Already France and New Zealand have decided
to pull their military forces back ahead of the 2014 NATO timetable,
and others may follow. The rising number of Afghan troops shooting
their American “partners” may cause an abrupt acceleration of the
departure timetable.

Obama's firmest grounding with American public opinion is that “we've
done enough” and it's time for the Afghan army, with 320,000 soldiers,
to “stand up for themselves.” But that is the fog of war. Obama will
have to work a complicated and controversial diplomatic miracle –
including diplomacy with Pakistan, Iran and China – if he wants the
appearance of an “orderly withdrawal” from Afghanistan. The Pentagon,
the neo-conservatives, the politicians and some in the mainstream
media will be very upset. But there is no American or European public
support for another decade of war. Even super-powers can overextend
and severely damage themselves.

For more, please see Barbara Tuchman, The March to Folly, for a likely
preview of Afghanistan's future.

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