President Obama's magnanimous decision to gain the freedom of U.S SGT Bowe Bergdahl after five years captivity in exchange for five Taliban Guantanamo prisoners (each after 12 years of captivity) may pave the way for broader peace agreements and an end to the war in Afghanistan. The current Taliban-U.S. agreement is the first of its kind resulting from the culmination of several years of negotiation attempted peace talks that failed. The government of Qatar played a pivotal role to bring about this first agreement between the Taliban and the U.S. The freedom and return of Sargent Bergdahl may be a new avenue for ending the Afghanistan war as the current policy may cause the war to continue for many more years per U.S.demand for stationing 10,000 troops after 2014 and demanding the signing of a security agreement.
As argued below several alternative strategies in the past have failed causing this war the longest U.S. war in U.S. history. During June of 2013, when the U.S. still had leverage with the Taliban , a diplomatic opportunity for a peaceful resolution availed itself when President Obama ordered a peace conference with the Taliban. The Taliban acquired and opened an office in Doha, Qatar. Afghan President Karzai's opposition and some U.S. State Department diplomat's proclivity did not capitalize on the opportunity. Sargent Bergdahl deal may have created opportunity for a follow -up U.S.-Taliban peace negotiation as Obama's most recent initiative is admirable. The partisan political storm over the exchange is absurd and not impeachable as some politicians have characterized it. The five Taliban released prisoners are middle aged men with zero propensity for war and posing no danger to American security. There is no evidence that these Taliban are terrorists.
The Afghanistan war has been a stalemate and costly in blood and wealth from its inception.. In 2009, President Obama's strategy of U.S. troop surge for a knockout blow upon the Taliban backfired. Instead, It caused more U.S. casualties. Additionally, the U.S. forces recruited thousands of private militia/mercenary groups to fight the Taliban throughout Afghanistan and increased the number of paid Afghan army and police forces to 350,000 expecting a shift in the correlation of forces in favor for the central government. That policy did not work. The Taliban had penetrated the Afghan army and police causing many defection and causing some of Afghan soldiers to shoot and kill NATO soldiers. Moreover, many of the Afghan soldiers who stayed in the service were there to pick up their monthly pay financed by the U.S. government but were not interested to fight. Their loyalty was largely to their own tribal chiefs than to the central government. Finally, it is inconceivable to keep the Taliban at bay with a small U.S. contingent present there.
The Taliban are members of the Pashtun tribes, they constitute the majority of Afghanistan's population. The Taliban did not participate in the first round of the current presidential election this month. They will be disenfranchised if the political process is not adjusted and will cause the war to continue. The better alternative is to reach a peace accord with the Taliban by re-instituting the Doha peace conference.
During June of 2013, when the U.S. still had leverage, a diplomatic opportunity for a peaceful resolution availed itself when President Obama ordered a peace conference with the Taliban. The Taliban acquiescent and opened an office in Doha, Qatar. Afghan President Karzai opposition and some U.S. State Department diplomats congruence did not capitalize on the opportunity for reconciliation.
As the figure below indicates, more than several hundred thousand U.S. soldiers have been engaged in this war for 12+ years, the longest war in U.S. history. The fundamental question is what was the purpose of the war, what was accomplished and why we are still there?. There is no evidence that the Taliban were terrorists. Nor were they accessory to Bin Laden's 9/11 tragic attack on the United States.
The following is the direct link to the figure for viewing: http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/afghanistan_infographic_share_page.jpg:
Moreover, the recommendation of the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Dunford v. the CIA including 16 intelligence organizations are diametrically opposed to each other' views. The latter has opted for zero option while the general wanted additional troops and longer stay. But the merit of this war in term of U.S. security interest and the attendant suffering of the American families, parents, wives, children and young soldiers themselves demand an end to this senseless war. Also, the enormous damages that the U.S. forces have inflicted upon thousands of villagers in Afghanistan, including children, women, men, young and elderly, demand an end of this war. There is no question that the rational of Afghanistan war poses a big question - its legitimacy, legality, duration, morality- all are questionable.
If U.S. current strategy is not modified, it will amount to "no war - no peace" policy which means that most of the U.S. soldiers will be withdrawn from Afghanistan but the conflict will continue among the Afghan factions, and if the Taliban rebound, the war could go on indefinitely. After 13 years of war and intrigue, no diplomatic or military solution were found although the level of U.S. soldiers and 40 NATO members had peaked at one point to approximately 200,000 soldiers and 700 military bases throughout Afghanistan. The Taliban were not defeated. In light of these facts, The question is being raised as to how a contingent of 10,000 U.S. forces in six bases will end this war? The better alternative is to negotiate peace with the Taliban while they are prepared after SGT Bowe Bergdahl deal and assist Afghanistan's reconstruction after this grueling war.
Nake M. Kamrany is professor of economics and director of program in Law and economics at the University of Southern California and a member of California Bar.
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