We are witnessing a change of tides in the ‘War Against Terrorism’. US officially changed their approach towards the Taliban since the invasion of Afghanistan. The classic statements such as, “As a result of the US military, the Taliban no longer is in existence” by ex-President of US, George W. Bush, are no longer in play. Washington has had a change of heart when Obama called Taliban’s opening of their office in Qatar as an “important first step toward reconciliation”. The war in Afghanistan has been a lost cause from the beginning of the invasion and reconciliation is a necessary step towards bringing a long overdue peace to the region.
The war in Afghanistan has lasted 12 years since its initial invasion by US in 2001. With nearly 100,000 NATO and US soldiers, 185,000 trained members of Afghan National Army and 149,000 members of Afghan National Police, the Taliban, estimated to be 20,000 members, are still roaming the country and fighting a war. Clearly, there is something wrong with this picture when allied forces are outnumbering rebel fighters 21 to 1.
Leaving the numbers aside, there are clear indications that US and NATO are losing this war. Some individuals might say that the Taliban has agreed to participate in the peace talks, so clearly they are frustrated with this war and want an end to it. Not exactly (not saying that they do not want peace)! Taliban have always said that they will only go into peace talks with US as the current Afghan government is a puppet of Washington, thus they want to talk to the head. While US has always responded to this demand by putting the Afghan government at the spearhead of peace talks with the Taliban, that is. US officially accepting to talk with the rebels is as good as surrendering to them.
Furthermore, we are seeing an unhappy Afghan government. Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, said that he will suspend bilateral talks with Untied States about American troops in Afghanistan past 2014, since the Afghan government is not involved in the peace talks. At one side we are trying ‘reconciliation’ with the Taliban, while on the other, we are angering the Afghan government. By holding talks between the Taliban and Washington and not including Afghan government, we are witnessing the irrelevance of Karzai regime. This is yet another unofficial acceptance by Washington.
We also have US diplomats stating that we have achieved what we wanted to begin with, which was eliminating Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Once again, true that Osama bin Laden was killed by American troops, but we must look at the circumstances of his death. Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan, in the city of Abbottabad about 1.5 km away from Pakistan Military Academy. Additionally, many reports are coming out from the US government stating that Pakistan is harboring and training the Taliban in their soil. Al Qaeda has been weakened and driven out of the area for many years, but why are still fighting in the Taliban in Afghanistan and not in Pakistan?
Coming back to the recent development of US holding talks with the Taliban, we could have good implication for both sides (aside from the end of this long war). Elections are coming up in 2014 in Afghanistan and the Taliban could, potentially, have a piece of that pie. A huge chunk of the southern part of Afghanistan is not represented in the Afghan government (as majority of the Taliban are from southern Afghanistan). While for US and its allies, it means ending a long overdue war and reducing their military budgets. War in Afghanistan has cost US over $600 billion USD (not include the long-term care for war veterans) in the past 12 years. Resources could be allocated to the much needed domestic issues of US and NATO countries.
The Afghan war has been lost cause from the start, but this does not mean that we should eliminate every member of the Taliban before we could call it quits. Many people have said, including myself, that this war could only come to end with peace talks between the parties involved. As an International Development student, I can honestly say that this war has been waste of resources and precious lives. Development could only proceed forward while there is peace and stability, which is much needed in Afghanistan.