Talks in Qatar


And Saudi Arabia, too

A milestone, yes, but one that could have been avoided. Now that the Taliban and the US are set to start their negotiations, what with the establishment of the militia’s Qatar office and the US’s release of certain Taliban operatives from the premises of Guantanamo Bay, eyes should be on the future. And we’ll get to that in a bit. But first, lest candid posterity forget, the wages of recklessness by the then US administration have been borne by thousands upon thousands of Afghans and scores of ISAF forces. If that intransigence was due to be softened in a decade since, why the senseless attitude towards the conflict right at the beginning?

When the war had started, a Taliban official quipped that this was world war one, a take on the fact that in the Great War, the Swiss, at least, were neutral. Not so in Operation Infinite Justice. The medievalist, retrogressive and fascist the Taliban undoubtedly were (will be, again) but their behaviour following the 9/11 attacks was not as intransigent as Western media led us to believe. And if a decision had indeed been taken to wipe out the Taliban regime, regardless of what could be worked out regarding Al-Qaeda, even then different approaches could have been adopted. Several key Pashtun leaders from southern Afghanistan had urged the US to disconnect the various tiers of the regime; that since the core group was extremely small, a communication disconnect could serve to topple the regime without much bloodshed. But wars needed to be waged and, perhaps, guns needed to be bought.

Cut to the present: both the Pakistani and Afghan governments are a bit antsy at the moment while the US and Taliban thrash it out on the negotiating table. Reports are out of the two neighbouring countries wanting to have a window of negotiation of their own in Saudi Arabia. The Taliban appear to be open to this idea. It couldn’t get more of a Great Game than this.

Perhaps the US could have avoided the current free-for-all by either encouraging multilateral engagement or, at the very least, by ensuring the negotiation was done through the Afghan government.

On the home front: the right is vehement in its insistence that we should take a lesson in the West’s rapprochement with the Taliban. Comparing apples and oranges there. To Afghanistan, its own. We have a working democratic setup in Pakistan and no foreign occupation army. The writ of state should not be compromised on here.