Not since Vietnam has the United States sat down with an enemy it was fighting on the battlefield and negotiated an exit from war. That long-standing policy might end this year if a carefully choreographed diplomatic dance takes U.S. and Afghan officials to a negotiating table with the Taliban.
As Reuters Washington correspondent Missy Ryan explains, President Obama’s peace gambit has the potential to be a significant development for U.S. foreign policy. But it turns out it is a policy borne out of necessity: two years ago, the Pentagon thought the Taliban could be defeated militarily, and today, it’s all too clear they aren’t going away.
There are many hurdles and not insignificant push back here at home to overcome. And Obama may want to don a helmet for the incoming fire… from Capitol Hill. As soon as he notifies Congress of plans to move Taliban detainees from Guantanamo to get the ball rolling, he is sure to face a torrent of attacks.
If the idea of talking with a fundamentalist group known for its brutality and repression is just too hard to conceive, consider this: it could have well happened a decade ago and possibly ended the war in Afghanistan.
As a former U.N. official and advocate of peace talks told Ryan: “When people start to add up cost of war in Afghanistan over the last decade, they will ask how on earth the new Afghan leadership and U.S. officials failed to take advantage of these early overtures by the Taliban.”