Wishful Thinking: Negotiating With the Taliban

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“Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy, because it threatens U.S. interests.”
– Vice President Joe Biden, December 2011

“Dreamers tell us dreams come true, it’s no mistake. Wishes are the dreams we dream when we’re awake.”
–The Glenn Miller Orchestra, Wishing (Will Make it So), March 1939

Wars do not simply end. They are won or lost. There are a host of strategic, moral, and political consequences for having been defeated on the field of battle. Yet this simple truism appears to run utterly counter to the declared policy of President Obama.

During his state of the union speech, President Obama declared, “Most of Al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated.  The Taliban’s momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home.”


The Taliban believe they are poised to retake the country when the U.S. withdrawals, according to a U.S. military report compiled from interviews with recent Taliban detainees. The Afghan forces with whom we are purported allies against Al Qaeda and the Taliban are selling their weapons, signing cease-fires, and turning over territory to the Taliban in preparation for our departure, according to NATO. And that’s when our “allies” aren’t shooting our people in the back. As Army Lt. Colonel Daniel Davis reports, “there is an absence of success…on every level.”

Not content to follow the advice of the late Senator George Aiken who when speaking of Vietnam reportedly said, “the best policy is to declare victory and leave,” the Obama administration intends to do one better and declare that there is no enemy and then leave. Thus, administration officials came to the support of Vice President Biden, insisting that his statement about the Taliban was not in error.  Indeed the administration’s effort to create a non-existent division between the Taliban and Al Qaeda (which they falsely claim to have defeated) serves an obvious purpose since it seems unlikely that even a war-weary public is willing to countenance negotiating with terrorists who openly and repeatedly declare themselves affiliated with those who murdered nearly 3,000 Americans on a fateful September day.

Yet the Administration continues to agree to concessions, including a demand to release hardened terrorists from Guantanamo Bay, and permit the opening of a “Taliban Embassy” in Qatar,  for the mere pleasure of beginning negotiations.

And the Taliban has yet further conditions, insisting that, “ … (4) no ceasefire will be demanded before, during or after the talks; (5) Taliban will not accept any condition contrary to Shariah; (6) whenever desired, the Taliban will disassociate from the talks.”

In other words, the Taliban’s preconditions for negotiations are the right to continue their jihad to establish Shariah in Afghanistan. They have, in effect, asked for a complete acquiescence to all of their goals, as a pre-condition for talks. By comparison, what were once American preconditions, of respecting the Afghan constitution, renouncing Al Qaeda, and laying down their arms, have now become mere “necessary outcomes.”

How did we reach this piteous position?

It is not the fault of America’s valiant soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who have shown time and again that they can and will win on the field of battle despite restrictive rules of engagement, never mind the naysayers who spout platitudes about the “graveyard of empires.”

It is not the fighting skills of the Afghan tribes, or the treacherous terrain, both of which confronted all previous occupiers of Afghanistan, which have placed us within a hair’s breadth of defeat. It is instead policy-makers in the United States, who have repeatedly failed to comprehend the threat doctrine of the enemy or the ideology upon which it is based, and through that comprehension devise a strategy which results in victory. Can any member of the Obama administration articulate what negotiating conditions might be contrary to Shariah? Do they understand the concept of a hudna, a tactical peace which exists only until the Muslim side is strengthened and jihad can once again be waged successfully? Do they recognize that any other proposed peace with a non-Muslim power would itself be a violation of Shariah, and thus a violation of Taliban’s preconditions?  It is the same view of Shariah which prohibited the Taliban from turning Osama bin Laden over to an infidel power for his act of jihad in 2001, when that ultimatum was presented to them by then President George Bush.

This failure to comprehend the nature of the enemy has come about not because our policy makers are incompetent or foolish, nor simply because they are politically correct, although this is a factor. Instead it is a matter of a deliberate campaign of misinformation conducted by those who share the Taliban’s doctrine of Shariah, even if they disagree tactically about its violent methods. This campaign, principally conducted by members or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, is one which we have opined on previously, and at some length.

So it came as little surprise to us to learn that the spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, serves as a mediator for these ill-conceived negotiations with the Taliban. Nor can we be surprised by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony which judged the Muslim Brotherhood a useful bulwark against Al Qaeda. How can an organization which shares the exact same ideological roots and objectives as Al Qaeda serve as a bulwark against it? This concept is as preposterous as maintaining that by supporting Communist parties throughout Western Europe we might have undermined the Soviet Union.

If the United States and its allies depart Afghanistan under a cloud of defeat, whether granted a fig leaf of negotiations or not, it is a victory for global jihad and will be understood as such. It may be the case that military necessity will dictate a retreat from Afghanistan. That is something which the military planners will have to determine. But that determination should be made with a crystal clear understanding of the enemy, not clouded by muddle-headed pabulum that disguises the Taliban as anything other than the hardened jihadists they are.

It may have been alright to believe that “wishing will make it so” in March of 1939, but by September 1939, it became time to put away such light-hearted fare and recognize implacable enemies for what they were. Yet here we are, ten years into our war with global jihad, and the Obama Administration continues to tell us that dreams may yet come true.

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About the Author

Kyle Shideler
Kyle Shideler is the Director of Research and Communications for the Endowment for Middle East Truth

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