March 09, 2021

Joe Biden must abandon bad deal and find new route in Afghanistan

Originally published in The Hill

The Biden administration is reportedly doubling down on the deal that the Trump administration concluded with the Taliban more than one year ago. Negotiating with the Taliban is not the path to peace or to securing American national security interests. The Taliban remains determined to once more establish its oppressive rule in Afghanistan, trampling the human rights the Biden administration has promised to champion. It remains intertwined with Al Qaeda and has shown neither the willingness nor the ability to keep its promise to deprive that group of safe haven. It also does not represent the Afghan or even the Pashtun people.

Ending the war in Afghanistan in a way that protects American interests and supports American values needs an entirely different approach. The United States must help Afghans move away from the elite compact on which the settlement and government was built in the early 2000s. The Afghans we should be talking to now are the real representatives of the major Afghan communities rather than the Taliban. We must help them come together on how Afghanistan should work. The Taliban can then decide to accept that agreement or become irrelevant. That is the only way this war will end.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has apparently threatened Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with withdrawing United States forces in this spring if negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban do not make meaningful progress. There is no report of any similar threat being made to the Taliban. The United States has also apparently proposed dissolving the current government, elected on the basis of the constitution that the United States and the international community worked to create in the early 2000s, and forming an interim government that includes the Taliban. This entire effort assumes that Ghani and the current Afghan order are key problems, and that engaging the Taliban and revising the constitution are vital for a solution.

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