Phony Peace Deal on Afghanistan

Last week in Qatar, the United States signed a deal with the Taliban to end America’s longest war.  But in contrast to World War II, which ended with a complete victory for the United States and its allies, the Qatar deal seems doomed to fail. 

At best, the deal simply provides a cover for a hasty drawdown of U.S. troops in the hopelessly fractured nation. There will be no celebration of victory in Times Square this time around, like there was symbolized by the iconic Alfred Eisenstaedt photo of a sailor kissing a nurse in the frenzy of victory.

To be sure, the American people are more than weary of seeing our brave troops bogged down in a war that has lasted 18 years, cost the lives of nearly 2,500 troops and left thousands more wounded physically and emotionally.

An excellent article in last Saturday’s New York Times by Douglas London, a former CIA operative, was headlined “The Taliban Will Never Agree to Real Peace.”  London, now an adjunct associate professor at Georgetown University’s Center for Security Studies, notes that it is “a dangerously misguided belief” that the pact will truly end the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

London puts it this way:

“Just negotiating with the Taliban is a treacherous proposition, given how diverse, decentralized and factionalized the group is.”

He adds that historically, Afghanistan has been under the control of regional warlords, with no consistent loyalty to any one group. The present government is divided between two rival factions: If one faction signs a deal, rival elements set off suicide bombs to derail it.

The Taliban provided a protected haven for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people in 2001. The Taliban were ousted from power, and bin Laden and Mullah Muhammad Omar are dead. The United States plans to leave a reduced force of 8,000, drawn down from 14,000, to prevent a return to chaos, but the administration is asking for no concessions in return.

The feeble pledge by the Taliban for “a reduction in violence” will not set off any ticker tape parades. Nor should it. The deal may offer at least a slim hope that our longest war could soon come to an end. But it’s far from a sure thing. As London concludes:

“A one-week ‘reduction in violence’ is not a cease-fire, and a deal that yields concessions without demanding any in return will not bring real peace.” Americans may be tired of war, but they should demand a deal that has a better chance to bring a lasting end to hostilities.