|Can We Trust Them?|
In principle, the Taliban have agreed to clearly state their position on several issues so that formal talks with Washington will be internationally acceptable. In particular, the Taliban will explain their stance on al-Qaeda.
Asia Times Online has learned that the backchannel talks have to date resulted in the Taliban agreeing to issue a policy statement on their relationship with al-Qaeda. They will clarify that they provided protection to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in line with Afghan traditions of being hospitable.
The Taliban will spell out their position of decrying international terrorism and of not supporting violence in Muslim countries. Above all, they will clearly state that the Taliban are an indigenous movement struggling against foreign occupation forces with no agenda outside Afghan boundaries.
...During this Ramadan's talks in the UAE, Taliban representatives indicated a willingness to accept a more broad-based political setup in Afghanistan.
...During the talks in the UAE, it was clarified that the Taliban would not allow any training camps for international terrorism on their territory.
Can the Taliban be trusted to keep these promises? Probably not. Does that really matter? Probably not. The idea for Washington and its allies is to get out of Afghanistan with something, anything that provides a suitable appearance or narrative to justify an inconclusive, decade-long war.
Asia Times Online earlier reported that the deal being discussed might see something resembling a quasi-partition of Afghanistan with the Pashtun south going to the Talibs. Curiously enough, that might be the only deal that would be acceptable to the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara tribes of the north.
What was that line Nixon coined? Oh yeah, "Peace with Honour."
Within the United States the PR machine is already getting up to speed. According to the LA Times, even some of the Afghan war's biggest boosters are now changing their tune:
"The current strategy isn't working, and it's costing roughly $100 billion a year," Haass, a former aide to then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, told me last week. "It's time for a major recalibration: not an immediate withdrawal but a significant scaling down of our ambitions."
And last week, a group of 46 foreign policy experts issued a joint report arguing that the goal of building a unified, stable Afghanistan is beyond the ability of the United States, and unnecessary to boot. The panel, the Afghanistan Study Group, included both longtime critics of the war and some who supported U.S. policy until recently.
"A U.S. military victory over the Taliban is simply not necessary to protect U.S. interests," said one of its members, Paul R. Pillar, a former CIA counter-terrorism official.