Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Pakistan's involvement in negotiations that could lead to an end to the indefinite war

While most of the discussions about national security right now are focused on the recently released white paper on targeted drone killing, there was some actual news that broke this week that almost no one is paying attention to.

Before we get to that, let me provide a little background and context.

On May 1st last year, President Obama visited Afghanistan and gave a speech there about ending the war. Most people thought he was only talking about ending the war in Afghanistan. But I think that if you look at the entirety of his remarks, you see that he was also talking about the indefinite war - the one he refers to as the "war on al Qaeda."
My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war. Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon. The Iraq War is over. The number of our troops in harm’s way has been cut in half, and more will be coming home soon. We have a clear path to fulfill our mission in Afghanistan, while delivering justice to al Qaeda...

This time of war began in Afghanistan, and this is where it will end.
In the speech the President laid out 5 steps to ending these wars. The first 3 had to do with agreements he'd made with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The 4th step had to do with negotiations the United States was attempting to engage in with the Taliban. Last fall, those negotiations appeared to have failed. 

Here's what the President said about the 5th step:
Fifth, we are building a global consensus to support peace and stability in South Asia...And I have made it clear to its [Afghanistan's] neighbor -- Pakistan -- that it can and should be an equal partner in this process in a way that respects Pakistan’s sovereignty, interests and democratic institutions. In pursuit of a durable peace, America has no designs beyond an end to al Qaeda safe havens and respect for Afghan sovereignty.
Now for the news this week:
The leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan have said they would work to reach a peace deal within six months, while throwing their weight behind moves for the Taliban to open an office in Doha, Qatar.

Following talks on Monday hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari urged the Taliban to join the reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

"All sides agreed on the urgency of this work and committed themselves to take all necessary measures to achieve the goal of a peace settlement over the next six months," they said in a joint statement issued by Cameron's office...

Support from Pakistan, which backed Afghanistan's 1996-2001 Taliban rule, is seen as crucial to peace after NATO troops depart, but relations between the neighbours remain uneasy despite some recent improvements.

Zardari said it was in Islamabad's interest to support the initiative.
This is not only important because Pakistan supported the Taliban rule in Afghanistan prior to 9/11. They have also provided a safe haven for both the Taliban and al Qaeda following their defeat there. Finally it might be Pakistan's involvement in these negotiations that could bring the Taliban back to the table. As I've suggested before, a peace settlement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Taliban at the time of our troop withdrawal could finally signal an end to this indefinite war.

As the article above says, these talks were hosted by British Prime Minister Cameron in London. And so it should come as no surprise that the very next day Vice President Biden - one of the main proponents of this process - was in town to meet with Cameron, British military chiefs, intelligence officials and political leaders.

These kinds of negotiations are very complex and the people involved are difficult to trust. But for those of us who are truly interested in ending this indefinite war, these are incredibly important stories to keep an eye on. I'll continue to do my best. But if you see something that it looks like I've missed, please let me know.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this,SP. I don't follow this closely so your background recap really helped to put this week's news into perspective. There is so much going on that we cannot rely on MSM to clarify. TY

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