A little more than 20 years ago, on Oct. 7, 2001, U.S. Air Force B-52H long-range bombers began a focused aerial bombardment of Al Qaeda and Taliban forces. The purpose was to ensure Al Qaeda and its associates would never again have Afghanistan as a haven from which to carry out terrorist attacks on the U.S. homeland. That purpose was achieved and sustained for two decades – until now. Liberty Nation has been at the forefront of reporting on the ignominious and ham-handed retreat from Kabul and the disastrous aftermath, leaving Americans and friendly, supportive Afghans behind. Evacuation of the remnant is a lever the Taliban used in talks with a group of U.S. interagency government officials on Oct. 9-10 in Doha, Qatar.
A State Department press release stated the purpose of the discussions:
“On October 9 and 10, an interagency delegation traveled to Doha, Qatar to meet with senior Taliban representatives. The US delegation focused on security and terrorism concerns and safe passage for US citizens, other foreign nationals, and our Afghan partners, as well as on human rights, including the meaningful participation of women and girls in all aspects of Afghan society.”
Important to notice is that State Department negotiators listed first among the topics “security and terrorism.”
This U.S. position has been consistent for the last 20 years and was restated in the previous administration’s agreement with the Taliban. A February 2020 pact between Donald Trump and the emerging insurgent Taliban powerbase stated that the deal rested on “[g]uarantees and enforcement mechanisms that will prevent the use of the soil of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies.” Taliban assistance was pivotal. Additionally, the Biden administration has repeatedly declared that it held to the letter of the former administration’s agreement on U.S. troop withdrawal.
Yet, before the most recent talks even got started, the Taliban said they were not going to abide to the promise to assist the United States in containing Al Qaeda or other extremist groups. As the Associated Press explained:
“The Taliban on Saturday ruled out cooperation with the United States to contain extremist groups in Afghanistan, staking out an uncompromising position on a key issue ahead of the first direct talks between the former foes since America withdrew from the country in August. ‘We are able to tackle Daesh independently,’ Shaheen [Suhail Shaheen, Taliban political spokesman] said when asked whether the Taliban would work with the US to contain the Islamic State affiliate. He used an Arabic acronym for IS.”
Two things happened with this Taliban communique.
First, the Taliban told the United States to pound sand regarding the most crucial issue on the State Department’s agenda for the Doha talks. Second, the Taliban changed the subject. The key issue is no longer protecting the security of U.S. and allied nations from Al Qaeda and other international terrorist groups in Afghanistan. Instead, global terrorists in that country are an internal Taliban security problem, which they will take care of themselves, thank you very much.
Knowing this before the talks began, did the crackerjack U.S. negotiators notify the Taliban: “Please get your return tickets to Kabul because there will be no discussions until you are prepared to talk about how, not if, the Taliban government will contain Al Qaeda and other like organizations?” No, they did not. Quite the contrary, as Reuters reports, the U.S. team said, “The first face-to-face meeting between senior US and Taliban officials since the hardline group retook power in Afghanistan was ‘candid and professional’ and that the US side reiterated that the Taliban would be judged on their actions, not just their words.”
Reuters went on to explain that the “two sides also discussed the United States’ provision of robust humanitarian assistance, directly to the Afghan people,” which was the topic most important to the Taliban. That would alleviate, at U.S. taxpayer expense, a dire humanitarian situation of the Taliban’s own making. So, the United States got nothing.
We get it: When it comes to terrorists setting up shop again in Afghanistan, the host government will not destroy that capability. So now the United States is back to over-the-horizon attacks on terrorist training facilities and headquarters. But wait, didn’t the Taliban, an eighth-century culture and fighting force (albeit well equipped with U.S. weapons now), warn that it would not allow U.S. armed drones overflight?
In September 2021, Reuters reported:
“The Taliban on Wednesday [Sept. 29] warned of consequences if the United States did not stop flying drones over Afghan airspace. ‘The US has violated all international rights and laws as well as its commitments made to the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, with the operation of these drones in Afghanistan,’ the Taliban said in a statement on Twitter.”
It’s obvious: The Biden administration is in a situation where early appeasement of the ragtag insurgent group now in charge in Afghanistan has left few options. On the one hand, State Department “Taliban-whisperers” may be able to find sufficient giveaways so the United States might on bended knee get the Taliban to spring for lunch at the next meeting. However, there could be another future. The Department of Defense and State Department might offer the Taliban a joint demarche, explaining that they appreciate the Taliban’s warning, but when the United States encounters terrorist organizations using Afghanistan as a launching pad for global terrorist activities, it will take whatever steps necessary to eliminate that threat. This communication would be couched, naturally, in candid and professional language.
The views expressed are those of the author and not of any other affiliation.
~ Read more from Dave Patterson.