Taliban 5 join Qatar political team

 
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Taliban 5 join Qatar political team

This is news, whether good or bad seems debateable:

Five senior Taliban members who spent years in the American prison camp at Guantánamo Bay have joined the insurgency’s political office in Qatar at a time when that delegation has been at the center of American efforts to start a peace process, Taliban officials said Wednesday.

The five high-ranking members of the original Taliban movement — including the chief of the Taliban government’s army, a minister, a deputy intelligence chief, and two governors — were released in 2014 in exchange for an American soldier held by the insurgency, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. The five were shifted to Qatar, where officials say about three dozen Taliban leaders live with their families, and remained under watch of that country’s government.

Their joining of the Taliban’s political commission, which will bring them more freedom of movement, comes days after the insurgency’s longtime deputy, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, was also released back to the Taliban ranks. Mullah Baradar was arrested in a joint Pakistani-American raid in 2010 and had remained in Pakistani detention.

The recent developments follow two rounds of meetings between the Taliban and top American diplomats, after the Trump administration ordered direct contacts to try to jump-start an Afghan peace process.

Former President Karzai views it as a good thing:

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, who still wields considerable influence in today’s Afghanistan despite being out of office for four years, said Thursday he welcomes the entry of five Taliban leaders who were freed from the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in 2014 into peace negotiations.

Karzai, who led the country from 2001-2014, also said he now supports talks between the Taliban and the United States — but only as a step toward direct talks between the insurgents and a negotiating team representing Afghans from across society.

[...]

An opponent of direct U.S. talks with the Taliban when he was Afghanistan's president, Karzai now sees it as a necessity because the Taliban today control large swaths of the country. In a report released Thursday, Washington's own Special Inspector General on Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said the government has ceded even more territory to insurgents and now controls just over 50 percent of the country.

"The Taliban are Afghans and no doubt they control a great part of Afghan territory and that's a fact of life," said Karzai. "Afghanistan and the rest of the world must live with that, therefore a negotiation with them is necessary and good. Let the Americans talk to them."

The talk out of US military leaders suggests that some pessimism is taking root, and these last ditch political machinations are our best shot:

The new U.S. general leading the mission in Afghanistan gave a surprisingly candid interview this week on the situation in-country.

In his first interview since taking command of NATO’s Resolute Support mission in September, Army Gen. Austin Miller’s thoughts seem to mirror the pessimism felt by the American people as the war in Afghanistan treads past the 17-year mark.

“This is not going to be won militarily,” Miller told NBC News in an exclusive interview. “This is going to a political solution."

“My assessment is the Taliban also realizes they cannot win militarily,” he said. "So if you realize you can’t win militarily at some point, fighting is just, people start asking why. So you do not necessarily wait us out, but I think now is the time to start working through the political piece of this conflict.”

 

Although I don't agree with Karzai on much, he may be right that this is a good development.  As others have noted in articles recently, the Taliban 5 at least have some cache with the Taliban fighters in the field, most of whom disagreed with the peace talks.  At the very least with them on board with the talks there is a chance that if some agreement is made the rank and file would abide by it.

 

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Alexander the Great couldn't, the British couldn't, the Russians couldn't handle Afghanistan. Our mission was to capture Bin Laden and punish the Taliban. What part of Mission Accomplished to the civilian glory hounds not understand?

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News from the World of Military and Veterans Issues. Iraq and A-Stan in parenthesis reflects that the author is currently deployed to that theater.