It’s time to negotiate with the Taliban

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Some intelligence reports are showing cracks in Taliban resolve. Captured Taliban fighters say they are concerned for their safety should the Taliban stop fighting. Others wonder what the Taliban place in the political theater will be. There are even some hints that the Taliban founder and leader Mullah Omar wants peace in Afghanistan.

Corner a rat, and suddenly it becomes a lion. Most people acknowledge that the Taliban is evil by any Western measurement. But it is not possible to exterminate every last Taliban fighter. What is possible is to apply enough pressure so that the Taliban accepts Kabul authority. Always give your opponent a way to escape honorably, not for his sake, but for your own.

I believe the Taliban is looking for an end to the fighting. There are several reasons we should come to the table with them. First, in this kind of war, even victory seems hollow. We can declare victory, but how do we measure that? There will be more bombings, more assassnations. In a formal diplomatic setting, we could actually get Taliban leadership to sign papers declaring to all the world: We Lost.

Secondly, it’s common knowledge that people will fight harder if they think they face extermination.

And lastly, it shows good faith on our part. Only by bringing together all aspects of government power can we win and maintain credibility. We must maintain military pressure while opening the diplomatic pressure valve. The message of diplomacy should be clear: Kabul rules. If the Taliban fails to submit to rule of law, they will face death. If they choose the action they choose the consequence.

It may be the case that we will have to police the Kabul government as much as anyone else. Still, at least we know where to find Hamid Karzai.

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