Would it not be too much for the military industrial complex to bear if peace and reconciliation as an option returns to the West’s dealings with Iran and Afghanistan?
Just a day after Iran’s new leader Hassan Rohani declared his intentions to walk on the path of moderation, the news comes that the Taliban too has signaled its intentions to enter into peace negotiations. There is no direct correlation between the two nascent developments but they are potentially fraught with transforming the region that is forever at daggers drawn with itself.
Once you get past the absurdity of the United States, implacably opposed to the Taliban for the past decade and longer, being receptive to the idea, you come upon the tired wisdom that history repeats itself. Afghanistan may or may not be rich in other minerals but it is certainly irony-rich. Irony is Afghanistan’s most abundant mineral.
In the aftermath of 9/11 the Taliban as the insidious organism willingly hosting the parasitic Al Qaeda has been the biggest threat ever to the West in general and the United States in particular. Hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands lives have been spent on dislodging the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine and keeping them out of Afghanistan.
Now we are being told that the U.S. is open to talk to the same Taliban, one has got to wonder whether there is any merit to the idea of institutional wisdom as being superior to individual wisdom. By any measure, the Afghan mission has turned out to be, to put it in scholarly terms, one staggering fuckup. There has been no real consequence for those leaders under two presidencies who initiated and continued the mission without any identifiable objectives. Some of the so-called scholarly strategic brains insist that there is much deeper U.S. thinking behind continuing to do whatever it is doing in that region. They tell me that I do not have the strategic depth to understand long-term perspective. It must be even deeper than the roots of the mountain ranges that define Afghanistan because I don’t really see it.
The Guardian reports that the U.S. has even dropped the formal rejection of the Al Qaeda by the Taliban as a condition to talks. The American eye is, of course, on 2014 when the West completes its full military withdrawal. They cannot leave fledgling democracy in the hands of a weak Kabul. They need the stabilizing influence of the Taliban. Therein lies one of the many ironies. In effect, we are being told that this entire relentlessly bloody, vicious and harrowingly expensive 12-year-long interregnum could have actually been done without altogether.
The Taliban is opening a political office in Qatar. To understand the importance of this office, check out this U.S. State Department fact sheet on Qatar. Among other things it says, “The United States established diplomatic relations with Qatar in 1972 following its independence from the United Kingdom. Bilateral relations are strong, with the United States and Qatar coordinating closely on regional diplomatic initiatives and cooperating to increase security in the Persian Gulf. The two countries have a defense pact, and Qatar hosts CENTCOM Forward Headquarters. Qatar has supported North Atlantic Treaty Organization and U.S. military operations in the region. Hundreds of Qataris study in the United States, and several U.S. universities have branch campuses in Qatar.”
Now one of America’s most virulent foes, namely the Taliban, also has a political office there.
Someone like me not blessed with a strategic brain finds it extraordinary that things are back to where we started and no one seems to be enraged by it. I would repeat here what I said in the context of Iran. There is no reason to think that the latest peace overtures would fail just as there is no reason to think that they would succeed. That’s the best one can say with certainty.