We know President Obama discussed corruption with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in his surprise visit this weekend – that fact is all over the papers. And the New York Times, among others, hints that they talked about negotiations with the Taliban as well:
The trip highlighted how far the administration believes the Afghan government has to go to make good on promises that Mr. Karzai has made on governance and even reintegration with certain reconcilable members of the Taliban insurgency.
But that’s all there is – a hint. So, did Obama discuss negotiations with the Taliban with Karzai? I sure hope so.
The issue is extremely relevant right now for a few reasons. First, there have recently been a series of news reports on negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, which don’t officially exist but clearly are happening. And second, the joint U.S./Pakistani arrests of high profile Taliban leaders appear to be taking down people who are doing or are open to doing the negotiation for the Taliban side, leading some to question whether Pakistan is foiling attempts for peace in Afghanistan.
But most importantly, President Obama in his speech announcing the latest round of misguided troop escalations in Afghanistan promised to begin withdrawal in 2011. (Not end withdrawal, begin it, which still leaves us without a timeline for ending the war. But on to the point…) 2011 is fast approaching, and if Obama wants to make good on that promise, there is precious little way to create an out in this never-ending war other than to begin serious negotiations with the Taliban and plan for political reconciliation.
So, given that the U.S. is helping Pakistan arrest potential negotiators abroad, and given that the Afghan government is already beginning talks, did President Obama and President Karzai discuss negotiations with the Taliban this weekend? It seems it’s time the U.S. government get involved. For our national security’s sake, I hope they did, so we can begin in earnest bringing this war to a prompt, responsible close.