More than a decade and a half after U.S. forces helped to end the Taliban’s reign in Afghanistan, the Trump administration is encouraging negotiations between that armed Islamist movement and the Afghan government. It’s a defensible policy, but also a depressing reminder of the failure of years of U.S. intervention to bring peace and stability to the country.
More than 2,000 Americans have lost their lives in Afghanistan in Operation Enduring Freedom, which began in 2001 and ended in 2014, and in a “post-combat” mission that continues to this day with about 14,000 trainers, advisers and Special Forces. The U.S. has spent more than $120 billion on reconstruction in the country.
Yet the Taliban controls or contests significant portions of Afghanistan and has staged several dramatic attacks in recent weeks. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria also has established a presence in the country. Meanwhile, the unity government headed by President Ashraf Ghani continues to struggle with corruption and political and ethnic divisions.
Ghani has offered to engage in negotiations with the Taliban on a political settlement, and last week announced a three-month cease-fire if the Taliban also agrees to stop fighting. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. was “ready to support, facilitate and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.” Even before his statement, there were reports that a U.S. diplomat had met with Taliban representatives in Qatar in July.
A negotiated settlement of Afghanistan’s civil war would make it easier for the U.S. and its allies to withdraw their remaining forces. But it also would be in the interest of the people of Afghanistan — so long as it didn’t come at the cost of rights, particularly for women, now secured in the Afghan Constitution.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES