Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Major developments in negotiations to end the indefinite war (updated)

I'm going to be following the negotiations currently underway between the U.S. and our allies, Afghanistan and the Taliban. For some background about why this story is so important, read my post titled Ending the indefinite war. I'll also be collecting all of these stories at the tab up top with the same name.

Yesterday there were some significant developments in the negotiations. In exchange for the agreement to release some prisoners from Guantanamo, the Taliban agreed to open an office in Qatar.

The US has agreed in principle to release high-ranking Taliban officials from Guantánamo Bay in return for the Afghan insurgents' agreement to open a political office for peace negotiations in Qatar, the Guardian has learned...

The releases would be to reciprocate for Tuesday's announcement from the Taliban that they are prepared to open a political office in Qatar to conduct peace negotiations "with the international community" – the most significant political breakthrough in ten years of the Afghan conflict...

Nasr, now a professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, said the Taliban announcement on the opening of an office in Qatar was a dramatic breakthrough.

"If it had not happened then the idea of reconciliation would have been completely finished. The Qatar office is akin to the Taliban forming a Sinn Féin, a political wing to conduct negotiations," Nasr said, but added: "The next phase will need concessions on both sides. This doesn't mean we are now on autopilot to peace."

Michael Semple, a former EU envoy in Afghanistan who has maintained contact with senior Taliban figures, agreed that the deal represented a critical moment.

"This is at last a real process," Semple, now at Harvard University, said. "There is a long list of things we don't have and there has been no progress on substantive issues. But now there is a certain amount of momentum. Every discussion over the past couple of years has been heavy on western enthusiasm with nothing substantial from the other side."...

Western diplomats hope the opening of an office in Qatar will also lessen Pakistan's control of the Taliban. Pakistan plays host to most of the Taliban leadership, which it sees as an important bargaining counter in negotiations over the future of the region.

It is critically important that we keep an eye on this story. Not just because President Obama is taking HUGE risks to finally end this indefinite war. But also because you can bet that the right wing is on this story. As an example, the conservative blog PowerLine published a story about this same article titled Obama's Surrender of Afghanistan Continues Apace.

As we watch this story unfold, we need to know the long game our President is dealing with in this situation and be ready to defend the steps he's taking to get there.

UPDATE: Once again, Matt Osborne is on this story as well.


  1. This is great news. Conservatives deny it, but history shows only one way to end an insurgency: negotiate an agreement.

    President Obama recognizes that, and he's working to negotiate peace. Of course conservatives will call that "surrender," because they imagine the U.S. as having enough military power to force everyone to bow to our will. That didn't work for the U.S. in Vietnam, for the British in Northern Ireland, for the Spanish with the Basques, for the Russians in Afghanistan, for the Israelis with the Palestinians, for the U.S. in Iraq....

    Sooner or later, if really you want to end an insurgency, you have to negotiate an agreement that both sides can live with.

  2. Morning Squirrel!

    You're so right about all that.

    This is a bold move on President Obama's part - but its also the only real way out.

    I just hope folks will inform themselves and understand what a big deal this is.

  3. Thank you for making this a focus. Very helpful!