Reading President Obama’s endorsement of reconciliation efforts with the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, I wondered the other day whether the U.S. military would repeat its efforts in Iraq and seek to cut deals with particular insurgent outfits independent of the national government. At yesterday’s Pentagon briefing, a reporter whom I gather to be the Los Angeles Times‘ Julian Barnes asked spokesman Geoff Morrell about that:

I don’t that as being necessary in this case, and I think that if there were to be a scenario like that, I think that fundamentally those kinds of questions, Julian, are being addressed in the Afghan strategy review, which, as you know, is under way. So I wouldn’t be in a position to tell you if there’s sort of thinking under way about whether we should do this independent of whether there would be Afghan support for it. I just — I doubt that, because I think the Afghans have been vocally supportive of it, and we’ll follow their lead on this matter.

If that’s a denial, it’s by no means a firm one. The Afghan government has laid out its broad thinking on reconciliation. But it’s unclear how proactive an approach they’re taking. At a press briefing two weeks ago, representatives from the government left me with the impression that they’re waiting for insurgents to basically walk in from the cold. If a brigade commander had the opportunity to work out a modus vivendi with insurgents in his or her area of operations, would Gen. McKiernan, Gen. Petraeus, Secretary Gates and the Obama administration embrace that?

Crossposted to The Streak.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman

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