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Straight from the Specialists

Afghanistan: Negotiating while withdrawing is poor strategy

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(The views expressed in this column are the author’s own and do not represent those of Reuters)

In the wake of a U.S. Army staff sergeant’s murdering 16 Afghan civilians (mostly women and children), U.S. officials are contemplating the pace and scope of the U.S. troop drawdown from the country. At the same time, they are seeking a negotiated settlement with the Taliban leadership. U.S. and NATO Commander in Afghanistan General John Allen said yesterday that he did not foresee an accelerated drawdown of U.S. troops because of the shooting incident, but it is almost inevitable that this terrible tragedy will lead Americans to question the viability of the U.S. mission there.

The first goal of the U.S. Administration should be to demonstrate that it values Afghan lives and will pursue swift justice against the perpetrator of the heinous murders. This will help calm the situation and reassure Afghans the incident is an extreme aberration that will not reoccur.

The U.S. must not base its Afghan strategy around this one terrible incident. As tempting as it may be to view the current troubles in Afghanistan as an excuse to cut and run, U.S. leaders must recognise that such a decision would be irresponsible and lead to greater dangers for the U.S. and the Afghans. Instead, the U.S. and Afghan authorities must double down on their efforts to improve the partnership and show unity of purpose.

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