Game plan for Kabul

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Took too long coming

 

Whether or not the Taliban’s latest attack in Kabul – killing three US contractors – was related to the White House’s press briefing the previous day remains to be seen, but it does leave Washington in an awkward position. It was not easy to sell the new, strange narrative – that the Afghan Taliban are no longer terrorists, just insurgents. The underlying idea is clearly a more accommodative scenario for the Taliban, especially since the Americans foot print will be much reduced, and the Afghan army is in no position to face a strengthening insurgency. Both Kabul and Washington, apparently, would rather have a political solution.

If only the Americans had found the wisdom behind this distinction – between Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda – sooner. Analysts and officials familiar with the region then warned against lumping the two together from the beginning. Still America chose to bomb the Afghans for years, even though most al Qaeda Arabs left the country soon after the war began. Long years of unfair war and deprivation pushed many Afghans to join the insurgency. And, typical of Afghan resistance, the fight against the Americans has been growing in strength and success for much of the war now.

It is unlikely that the Taliban will simply agree to a political solution that does not leave them in a position of considerable strength. That is why all voices of regional influence will need to play their part. It is learnt that China has been pretty proactive over the last few years. And its advice and efforts have played a large part in facilitating this turnaround regarding the Taliban. Pakistan, too, has been known for its reach in such matters. It must also do what is possible to bring the fighting to an end in Afghanistan. President Ghani has brought much hope with him, and finally all principle partners in the war – Pakistan, Afghanistan, US – are on the same page. This opportunity took its time coming, but it must not be wasted.