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US, Taliban talks highlight policy change

Historically, the U.S. has said it doesn’t negotiate with terrorists — unless it is convenient. Then it just might extend a helping hand.

Besides a hint of geopolitical irony with a side of bittersweet concession, the U.S. approved the construction of an official headquarters for its 12-year mortal enemy and Osama bin Laden apologist, the Taliban, in Doha, Qatar. The negotiation, compounded with historical context, is a surprising
strategy that aims to preserve a contrived democracy through peaceful mediation rather than neglect or military might.

In anticipation for the 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. has taken upon itself to mediate a tentative peace plan with an entity that considers western culture the scourge of its society.

More than 30 years ago, the U.S. found itself at the other end of the aisle — funding a loosely knit band of tribal warlords against the decade-long Soviet occupation of communist Afghanistan. Making no attempt to reconcile the warring factions after Soviet withdrawal, the country descended into civil chaos, precipitating the rise and post-9/11 fall of the Taliban regime.

History has a karma-like tendency to repeat itself for those who do not heed its warnings. But after 12 years of violence, the election of a fickle, pseudo-sovereign parliament and the formation of a fledging, disorganized Afghan army, the U.S. has no other option than to confer with a regime it once supported only to see it toppled once more.

The novel aspects of these ‘talks’ are often overshadowed by this duplicitous history. For the first time, the U.S. plays a nonmilitary intermediary between a fragile republic and an adversarial force that is opposed to all tenants of western civilization. In light of these revelations, the prospects for a post-American Afghanistan are bleak. But with no other options on the table, the U.S. is forced to face reality.

No empire in the course of human civilization has ever managed to conquer the nomadic tribalism of Afghan society, and the U.S. is no exception. Nation-building is usually accomplished through domestic consensus and the progression of time, not by force and coercion.

Perhaps the Obama administration’s decision to abandon the historically neglected policy of avoiding negotiation with the enemy and attempting to mend sectarian conflicts through diplomatic means represents a willingness to compromise and accept the uninviting truth that the U.S. can no longer pursue its interests by force.

Konstantin Ravvin is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.