"Talking Our Way Out Of Afghanistan"
Op-Ed, Foreign Policy
October 9, 2012
Author: Matt Waldman, Research Fellow, International Security Program
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
NATO needs to negotiate with the Taliban NOW, before all the troops — and our leverage — are gone.
"The New York Times reported last week that U.S. officials have all but abandoned hope of achieving a peace settlement in Afghanistan before the bulk of foreign troops withdraw by the end of 2014. That's not as bad as it sounds. After all, the Geneva negotiations in the 1980s, which culminated in the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, lasted six years.
But it would be a serious mistake to give up on negotiations altogether. So long as NATO has substantial numbers of troops on the ground, it has leverage. The Taliban see those troops as their biggest threat, and withdrawal has long been the insurgents' foremost demand. What's more, the coalition has the ability to grant the Taliban a measure of international legitimacy, which the group craves.
The United States and its allies have a choice: They can withdraw unilaterally and squander their leverage, or they can engage with the Taliban and get something in return. They should use their influence to establish and structure a dialogue that could pave the way to a negotiated peace...."
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