I read this article three months back, trying to think of a way to contextualize it with the other articles appearing on this site. Since Saturday's turn of events in Times Square, it's become evident I waited too long to post it, or rather that the world changes fast and if you have an strong notion about something, you should act on it.
The article is called "A Deal With the Taliban?" Ahmed Rashid wrote it for the Feb. 25 edition of The New York Review of Books. It's probably 5,000 or more words long, but it offers in impeccable detail the advantages of a strategy to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table along with an explanation of what the Taliban in all its manifestations is like (e.g. how it is different from Al Qaeda). The following excerpt is a list of steps Mr. Rashid says the Obama administration and NATO have missed out on that, followed to the letter, might yield an opportunity for Afghanistan to manage its affairs effectively after the departure of U.S. forces.
"Here are some suggestions of steps that should be taken in advance of talking to the Taliban. Almost all these points have theoretically been accepted by the US and NATO but none have been acted upon:
1. Convince Afghanistan’s neighbors and other countries in the region to sign on to a reconciliation strategy with the Taliban, to be led by the Afghan government. Creating a regional strategy and consensus on Afghanistan was one of the primary aims of the Obama administration; but little has been achieved. From Iran to India, regional tensions are worse now than a year ago.
2. Allow Afghanistan to submit to the UN Security Council a request that the names of Taliban leaders be removed from a list of terrorists drawn up in 2001—so long as those leaders renounce violence and ties to al-Qaeda. Russia has so far refused to entertain such a request; but Obama has not tried hard enough to extract this concession from Russian leaders.
3. Pass a UN Security Council resolution giving the Afghan government a formal mandate to negotiate with the Taliban, and allow the US, NATO, and the UN to encourage that process. This would mean persuading reluctant countries like Russia and India to support such a resolution. (On January 27, a UN Security Council committee announced, with Russian agreement, that it has lifted sanctions against five former Taliban officials who are said to support the Karzai government.)
4. Have NATO and Afghan forces take responsibility for the security of Taliban and their families who return to Afghanistan, enlisting the help of international agencies such as the UN High Commission for Refugees or the International Committee of the Red Cross to work with the Afghan government to assist these returning Taliban members, arranging for compensation, housing, job training, and other needs they may have in facing resettlement.
5. Provide adequate funds, training, and staff for a reconciliation body, led by the Afghan government, that will work with Western forces and humanitarian agencies to provide a comprehensive and clearly spelled-out program for the security of the returning Taliban and for facilities to receive them.
6. Encourage the Pakistani military to assist NATO and Afghan forces in providing security to returning Taliban and their families and allow necessary cross-border support from international humanitarian agencies. Encourage Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to help the Taliban set up a legal political party, as other Afghan militants—such as former members of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami party—have done. This would be a tremendous blow to al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban and it would give concrete form to Obama’s repeated pledge that he is ready to reach out to foes in the Muslim world.
7. The Taliban leadership should be provided with a neutral venue such as Saudi Arabia or elsewhere, where it can hold talks with the Afghan government and NATO. The US should release the remaining Afghan prisoners held at Guantánamo and allow them to go to either Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia.
Unless such publicly announced policies are carried out, the Taliban may well conclude that it is better and safer to sit out the next eighteen months, wait for the Americans to start leaving, and then, when they judge Afghanistan to be vulnerable, go for the kill in Kabul—although that would only lead to a renewed civil war."
Warfare continues to become more professional and dehumanized every day.
The purpose of Extraordinary Edition is being revisited for winter, headed into 2013. U.S. foreign policy, Central Asia and the Middle East remain key focal points. Economics and culture on your front doorstep are coming into focus here.