On Saturday, October 8, Biden officials were back in talks with Taliban leaders. These were the first face-to-face discussions since a US drone launched a missile killing Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s number one leader for whom the Taliban provided Michelin Five-Star accommodations in Kabul. The question is: Why? It has been the habit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his diplomatic team to hold fruitless talks with America’s adversaries – for example, he engaged with Russia for months up to the moment the Kremlin launched its invasion of Ukraine. So it is not unusual that Foggy Bottom would be extending the olive branch to the brutal regime in Afghanistan.
“David Cohen, deputy director of the CIA, and Tom West, a State Department negotiator, met with a delegation led [by] Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban’s intelligence chief, in Doha, Qatar over the weekend, according to multiple reports,” Emily Jacobs writes in the Washington Examiner. Additionally, Jacobs reports the US had been having ongoing negotiations but broke off the talks with the Afghan rulers for providing a haven for al Zawahiri, the key planner for the 9/11 attacks on America. It’s also worth remembering part of the agreement former President Trump’s negotiators worked out was a Taliban guarantee it wouldn’t harbor terrorists. “According to US officials, the al-Qaeda leader had stayed at the home of an aide to Sirajuddin Haqqani, top deputy of the Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Haibatallah Akhundzada, for months,” Fox News correspondents Jennifer Griffin and Andrew Mark Miller reported.
Talks With Taliban are Low Level, but Why?
One could argue the level of the talks was at the lower tiers, but often adversaries only see the willingness to come to the negotiating table. And all too often, the Taliban have viewed such talks as weakness. Why wouldn’t they? The most powerful nation in the world wants to sit down with the terrorist organization that only a year ago humiliated and chased the US out of Afghanistan, which it now holds. In an interview with Lawrence Jones on Fox News’ Cross Country, retired US Army brigadier general, former President Trump’s choice for under secretary of defense for policy, and author of Chasing the Lion, Anthony Tata, addressed some of the same questions. He said:
“The United States continuing to negotiate with the Taliban makes little sense in my view. The Doha agreement signed a couple of years ago during the Trump administration that began the phase out of foreign troops from Afghanistan was a good agreement and was poorly executed by the Biden administration about a year ago. What we have now is no real agreement in place because they [Taliban] are not abiding by that agreement. As you said [they’re] harboring terrorists.”
Tata explained that there aren’t any real American interests in Afghanistan, or the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), as the Taliban government now calls the country. Furthermore, the Taliban have their hands full with the remnants of ISIS in the region, called ISIS Khorasan. ISIS-K has been relentless in attacking Afghan mosques and Taliban forces. It should be remembered that ISIS-K carried out the Abbey Gate suicide bombing at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, killing 13 American service members and countless Afghans. Tata recommends just letting that conflict play out. Why do anything that supports the Taliban?
No Evidence the US Will Get Anything From Talks
There is no reason the US should believe that Taliban terrorists will suddenly become good global citizens when the overwhelming evidence is to the contrary. With significant leverage over the cash-strapped IEA government, the US holds approximately $3 billion in funds belonging to the former Afghanistan government. The Taliban desperately needs that money. Taliban negotiators must understand any substantive talks are a two-way street and the Biden administration will not make a move to assist the IEA without a demonstrable quid pro quo. Stopping the killing and brutal treatment of women and former government leaders, police, and security forces would be a start. Then a serious effort with convincing evidence the Taliban is ferreting out terrorist organizations and denying them sanctuaries would also be persuasive. But the US should get something it wants before it puts any assistance on the table. That’s how legitimate, enforceable agreements are reached.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
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