About this time last year I wrote that there was a chance that Obama might think about talking to the Taliban instead of warring with them. Of course, nothing happened. They didn’t get beyond thinking about talking about talking.
A year later and several thousand more dead and injured in the bloodiest year since the war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, and it seems the Brits have had enough. British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, now wants to urge the Afghan puppet President Hamid Karzai into putting more effort into pursuing peace talks with the Taliban.
Miliband’s move seems to indicate that the British have little confidence in success of the surge that began last month with a much fanfared major assault against the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Helmand province where the Taliban, it seems, were replaced by a criminal warlord to run things there.
Talking about talks with the Taliban is nothing new. Back in September 2008, the Saudis apparently attempted to set up talks with the Taliban and the British were prepared to be involved in helping facilitating such talks. Then in October 2008, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said that he was prepared to ‘reconcile with the Taliban’ if the Afghan government pursued talks to end the war. Needless to say, it didn’t happen.
What will eventuate from the British Foreign Secretary’s latest attempt at getting talks going is anybody’s guess but if past experience is anything to go by, then little is likely to happen. A lot will depend on how the US reacts to talks with the Taliban planned by Karzai for next month. The real fly in the ointment, however, is likely to be America’s demand that the Taliban disassociate themselves from al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the Taliban demand that all foreign troops leave Afghanistan before they talk. If both sides stick to their demands than there will be nothing happening at all except more of the same.
On the one hand we have the warmongers on the right in the US, particularly the neocons, who will accept nothing less than the complete destruction of the Taliban and al Qaeda which simply means continual and indefinite war, and on the other a realist British government fully aware that as an election approaches in the UK, public opinion will need to be listened to.
While this does seem to be the best opportunity yet, if, for no other reason, the call for talks comes from someone as high up as Miliband, one should not, however, hold ones breath.
Only time, and no doubt many more lives yet, will tell.