Saturday, August 04, 2018

U.S.-Taliban Talks: Afghan Government Wasn't In The Room, Crocker Says

The U.S. has reportedly met with Taliban officials to discuss the possibility of peace talks to end the war in Afghanistan. Rachel Martin talks to former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker.

CROCKER: Not at all. What it does is put the Taliban really on a - if not a legal plane with the United States, certainly symbolically. They are talking about the American withdrawal and the circumstances of that withdrawal. We are there at the invitation of the Afghan government. They're not in the room. So if we withdraw, to whom do we hand this over to, the Taliban? That's the symbol we've got out there now. That's what the country is seeing, that the Taliban is their future because that's who the Americans are talking to, not the government in Kabul.

CROCKER: Yes, they did. And President Ghani, I'm sure, said - well, you know, thank you for telling me. Go ahead. But he is in a very, very difficult position right now to see, side-by-side, stories in the media that say U.S. talking to the Taliban, U.S. is contemplating advice to the Afghan government to pull its troops out of rural areas and concentrate on the cities - in effect, to cede the ground.

You know, look. These conflicts only end through negotiation. But who's at the table and the timing is critical. I think the Taliban won this round. They're on a roll. We are ceding ground. The Afghan government is ceding ground. So this is neither the time nor the interlocutors that you would want on the table to look for a negotiated settlement that is going to be good for the government of Afghanistan and for the Afghan people.

CROCKER: That's a great point, Rachel. In a word, no. And that's something else to keep in mind. Whatever comes out of this - again, I expect nothing good - it's going to be a long time in unspooling, in part for the reasons you just said. We and the Afghan government, for example, are making a major point out of empowerment for women and girls, female education. We have urged that women play a larger role in Afghan society, in Afghan governance, in the Afghan economy. Really hard to see how these talks are going to advance that point.

CROCKER: Well, it's pretty hard to build an army when you're in the middle of an insurgency. What the Afghans have going for them is, they are tough; they are resilient; they're committed. The bad news is, of course, that applies to both sides of the line - to the Taliban as well as the government. What this reminds me of more than anything - I'm old enough to remember it - the Paris talks over Vietnam. What those were were the beginning of a long surrender. And that's what I'm worried about now, that simply by getting into the room with us, the Taliban feel they have scored a major political victory. We're there. They're there. The Afghan government is not. I worry that I'm going to see what we saw in Vietnam except with far more grave social consequences. - Read More, NPR


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