Josh Foust was on a conference call in advance of the upcoming London conference on Afghanistan, and now he’s chewing over a seemingly contradictory pledge by the western friends of the post-Taliban political order:

“This regional framework is not the next version of the 6+3 or some kind of other grouping,” the diplomat said. It needs to be the region itself resolving these issues.

But if that’s the case, if this is to be Afghanistan and its neighbors solving the political, economic, and social problems that plague the country… why is the upcoming conference in London? Why all the NATO input? What’s the point of forcing a solution on our terms while demanding it be on theirs?

On the one hand, yes. Obviously the subtext of the London conference will be “…and it sure would be a shame if you guys went back on all of these commitments, as we think we’re on the same page here, and most of our publics would rather be doing a million other things than giving you guys money and troops and sacrifice.”

But that’s not the same thing as “forcing a solution on our terms.” Now, who knows: perhaps we are forcing a solution, but I rather doubt it, because those tend to fail. What I have heard a lot from U.S. and allied diplomats is that they want to make sure Afghans really do take thorough ownership of stuff they claim to want. Karzai wants more control over detention operations? Adm. Harward turns over the whole thing to the Defense Ministry within a year. And so forth. In other words, there’s a difference between between imposition and support — and a gulf between imposition and indifference, and that’s where diplomacy steps in. I haven’t encountered anything coming out from the conference about Afghan behavior that looks dictated-to by the U.S. or NATO. But we’ll see on Thursday.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman