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Talking With The Taliban

The drama over talking with the Taliban.

Qatari Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri, center right, and Jan Mohammad Madani, center left, one of the Taliban officials cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony of a Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (Osama Faisal/AP)

Qatari Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs Ali bin Fahd al-Hajri, center right, and Jan Mohammad Madani, center left, one of the Taliban officials, cut the ribbon at the official opening ceremony of a Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, Tuesday, June 18, 2013. (Osama Faisal/AP)

It sounded too good to be true — and it was.  The United States, the Taliban, maybe the Kabul government eventually, sitting down to talk peace in Afghanistan.

Now it’s all blown up — for the moment.

Hamid Karzai’s Kabul government is in a rage over the Taliban acting like they own the place. The Taliban is more than happy to act like they own the place or will.  The United States is almost unseemly in its need for a deal with the Taliban that will help it get out — but not completely out — of Afghanistan.  Meanwhile, the bloodletting goes on.

This hour, On Point: The inside scoop on talking with the Taliban.

– Tom Ashbrook


Rod Nordland, foreign correspondent for the New York Times, based in Afghanistan. (@rodnordland)

Ioannis Koskinas, a ormer military officer for over 20 years who now focuses on economic development projects in Afghanistan and Pakistan. While in the Air Force, he served as Afghanistan-Pakistan senior policy advisor and special advisor to Gen. Stanley McChrystal. He is currently the executive vice president of Asia-Africa Projects Group in Afghanistan. He recently wrote the article “Reconciliation Foolosophy: Fishing Without Bait.”

Daniel Markey, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, specializing in security and governance issues in South Asia.

From Tom’s Reading List

The White House: Background Briefing By Senior Administration Officials On Afghanistan — “Today is an important day for our ongoing effort in Afghanistan for two purposes. In Bagram, last year, the President laid out a strategy for Afghanistan and how we could responsibly and successfully end the war there that had five pillars. And two key pillars of that strategy were the ongoing transition of security responsibility to the Afghans and the pursuit of a political process that allows Afghans to reconcile with one another after so many years of war.”

Foreign Policy: Afghanistan: NATO’s Mission Impossible — “The Taliban announcement that they are going ahead with opening their political office in Qatar, as a base from which they can dialogue with all and sundry, is an important development. It is also one which has been a long time in coming. No one should underestimate the amount of diplomatic effort which has gone into making this happen.”

The Guardian: The Taliban’s Qatar Office Is A Positive Step, But Not A Prologue To Peace — “The Karzai-Obama declaration in January, the Cameron-Karzai-Zardari Chequers summit in February and the Kerry-Karzai-Kayani meeting in Brussels in April have all focused on getting the Taliban back to the negotiating table — from which they walked away in March last year. In the end, the formula was quite simple. The Taliban declared they they would not want anyone else to use the soil of Afghanistan to hurt another country. For the moment, the US team seems happy to read this as code for ‘we shall not let international terrorists back in.’”


Screenshot from an Al Jazeera news segment on the planned negotiations between the Taliban and the United States. Click to watch the full video and read the news report. (Al Jazeera)

Screenshot from an Al Jazeera segment on the planned negotiations between the Taliban and the United States. Click to watch the full video and read the report. (Al Jazeera)

Al Jazeera reports:

U.S. officials sounded a cautious but optimistic note about this Taliban office in Doha.

[Secretary of State John Kerry:] “It’s good news. We’re very pleased with what’s taken place.”

That’s not what the president of Afghanistan thought because of this sign, announcing a kind of headquarters for the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” the  name of the country when the Taliban was in charge.

Hamid Karzai has suspended all talks — not just with the Taliban, but with the United States as well.

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  • Robert Berube

    This should have been done a long time ago. The Kabul government under Hamid Karzai just controls 30 pct. of the country. Allow the Afghans, incl. Taliban to run their country however they want as long as they do not export terrorism and remain inhospitable to Al-Qaeda.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      but then how could we get their mineral wealth?

      • Bluejay2fly

        Your right, that is our modus operandi but even serial killers take a break now and again. Let’s sit this one out.

        • JobExperience

           Yes, always on the go, and there are no drive-in windows for  cannibalism. Those heads just sit in the fridge and shrivel.

      • jerwest

        Afghanistan…very little mineral wealth.  But, on the other hand there’s pomegranates and heroin

        • JobExperience

          Not entirely accurate. American occupation has enabled nominally  Chinese concerns to establish mines and build railroads to haul ore home for refining . And the optimal route for several regional petroleum pipelines is through Afghanistan. The opium is nothing to sneeze at. They don’t call our temporary  Imperial provinces Cokelumbia and Smackghanistan for nothing. I’m sure if our intelligence agencies,miliitary  and contractors didn’t take advantage even worse thugs would. If pallets of hundreds go in something must come out.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            lol the cia is kinder and friendlier traffickers?

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          lol ever heard of lithium? look into it its fascinating. the other source we knew about was bolivia which is intractable. ironically we just discovered a huge domestic lithium deposit. not to mention afganistan happens to be between us and a lot of oil. before hamid there became president he was working on getting that pipeline built. there was a great hearing on cspan where they were discussing that our end game in afganistan was to have the afgans farm the surface using our (monsantos) GMO seeds. while we extract their mineral wealth from beneath them. this was in a public hearing

    • JobExperience

      How much of the USA does Uncle Sam control?
      He seems worried lately, acting  erratically.

  • alsordi

    All the deaths and resources wasted in Iraq… and the US occupation failed and had to pull out of there too.  But the military contractors met their goals and made a ton of cash.

    And I can still remember George Bush smirking… when he stated his goal of having MTV in every Iraqi household.  How arrogant to think this phoney cowboy and his gang could change thousands of years of culture. 

    • Bluejay2fly

      I was in OIF and surprisingly many of us believed it was a sham. One contractor called KBR was referred to as Keep Bush Rich. 

      • JobExperience

         I wish I could get you between recruiters and high school students so that a clearheaded decision would be possible. The Church of Christ was caring enough to let me volunteer in  a Veterans’ Hospital during Vietnam and that opened my eyes. Before that I had a portrait of Moshe Dayan above my bed. “Follow the money” is a good suggestion when investigating our Armed Forces. Thanks for trying anyway. Glad you made it back.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      I bet bush imagined them all” watchin their tv screens” like him enjoying a little jersey shore

  • JobExperience

    An easy way to understand the Taliban is compare them to the T-party. When an ideology is socially backward and uncompromising it takes decades to establish rapport. But, just substitute militant sexist Islam for sabotaging White male supremacist free market religion  and you have the lay of the land.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Good comparison. Also, I think the Taliban is local, not interested in what goes on outside their own little world, like the T-party. So while they’ll take A-stan back to the dark ages, they won’t launch international terrorist attacks.

      • HonestDebate1

        So the Tea Party is known for launching international terrorist attacks. Gotcha’.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          Reading comprehension problem?

          I said they’re not interested in the outside world, like the T-P, so they WON’T launch international attacks.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            If it were anybody else but HD, I’d chalk that obvious misread up to an “honest” mistake.

          • HonestDebate1

            It actually was an honest misread. I freely admit I have a hard time comprehending any comparison as bizarrely hateful and illogical at that one was.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            If it were an “honest misread” you may have spent more time trying to comprehend the sentence structure.

            After some minutes, you’re still calling it “bizarrely hateful and illogical”, which I guess is just one Threat Level down from “dastardly and that’s sick“.

          • JobExperience

             Diabolical is the word you’re seeking.

          • 1Brett1

            I swear…he regularly does that; goes into, “gosh, golly, did I get that wrong? I was just honestly criticizing the post as vile nonsense; gee whiz. I really honestly misread it, but then who can blame me because liberals are all full of such convoluted gibberish; what is an honest debater to do?!?”

          • HonestDebate1

            I can’t remember the last time that happened. I’m sure I’ve misread things but it’s rare. You’re one to talk.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            I understand. Based on what I’ve seen, understanding “A is like B, B doesn’t care about the outside world, so A won’t either” would be like quantum gravity to you.

          • JobExperience

            He’s stubborn like a clever mule. Reminds me of my buddy Tommy Sowell. Coincidently, Tommy came out for higher wages last week… miracle of miracles! He could be trying to get into Heaven?

          • HonestDebate1

            Compare me to Thomas Sowell anytime you like.

        • JobExperience

           The US-MIC is always interested in launching international terrorism that dwarfs all other potential threats combined. Maybe you  missed the linkage because you think Plutocracy and Oligarchy work. Ain’t  it crazy  that  they  test us on  analogy  to enter post-grad?

        • MadMarkTheCodeWarrior

          No, the T-party time and again has held the US economy hostage in its so called negotiations in congress. Risking default was foolish, costly and ucking firresponsible. They are the American Taliban. The have degenerated from working toward principles to ‘winning’ power at any price like the Taliban warlords who wrap themselves up with religion when their game is all about power and nothing more.

      • JobExperience

         I was repeating a talking  point often used as an insult but there is an element of truth there. Maybe Al Queida is the transnational  counterpart of the Taliban just as Big Business and Hyperfinance are the casual allies and funders of the T-party. Tribalists are Libertarian at heart but must  co-opt their ideals to be politically  viable in a rapidly changing political economy. (They exit the gunshow broke and empty-handed.)Whether the overarching goal is Caliphate or Corporate it’s all crackpot and unsustainable. It’s sad that to contain and placate a few extremists we bargain away the lives of family guys women and kids entombed in  a good old boys club. Powers that be are  not gonna let the diligent self-supporting worker toil in peace either here or in Afghanistan. That’s the  nature of totalitarianism. Fear and insecurity are the tools of rule. If they can’t have it exactly their way they’ll pull a Sampson  and wreck it all.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          Good one.

          Hey, I bet the T-P and the T-ban could really bond over the treatment of women. Won’t find any objection to “legitimate rape” from the T-ban. 

    • HonestDebate1


      • JobExperience

        How’s my hair?

        • HonestDebate1


          • JobExperience

            You misspelled braided.

    • StilllHere

      Please, the better comparison is between liberal NPR board commenters and the Taliban; intellectual terrorism borne of ignorance.  I believe you just set off an “IED,” thankfully you were the only victim.

      • JobExperience

         Here=Protective Custody

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Again, this is a great point.
      Unfortunately, the T-ban will probably end up in charge. The result will be a T-party like medieval state, a theocracy, no rights for women, no gvt to protect the less fortunate and “to secure those rights (T. Jefferson)”, no science, disputes settled by personal weapons…very sad.

      The only bright spot wd be if some of the T-P who hate the USA so much wd move to A-stan to join the T-ban. They will be much more comfortable,  nothing required but a deity swap. And up in those mountains, the sea level rise from man-made global warming won’t be a problem.

  • Jim

    it is quite irresponsible for the Americans to talk to these people. they are murders and will only be completely satisfied when the entire world is Sunni. 

    i only see a Taliban takeover when discussion ends.

    • JobExperience

      Does that go for the T-party too, Jim?
      It’s always “those people” until you listen.
      (New Show after Caliphate: Its Always Sunni in Philadelphia) Assad is an Alawite devotee. Is that a new Hyundai model? The sporty gas-sipping Alawite with a seven year guarantee. Don’t take other people’s word for conditions but do your own evaluation. We  dehumanized the Japanese in WWII and it took awhile to recover our souls.

      • Jim

        my statement is not dehumanizing. it is the fact. Sunni is a religious sect… but the Taliban emphasizes the wahabi movement. until you live in that society, you would not know what you are talking about. i highly encourage you to live and hopefully flourish with them in Pakistan. maybe you will understand where i am coming from. 

        • JobExperience

           Are you from there?

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      maybe after a few rounds of goat carcass polo they will conquer the globe. lets get the heck out of the graveyard of empires

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Obama should tap Hillary as the principal negotiator.  She is free now and given her lengthy list of accomplishments as Sec. of State she will be certain to cut the best deal for the US and put the Taliban in their place.  The Taliban are certain to cower at the sight of her at the negotiating table.

    • JobExperience

      Her health would not  permit. She’s no spring chicken.
      Only Michelle Bachmann is tough enough, and oblivious enough. Marcus could go along to straighten up the dancing boys. 

    • alsordi

      This was supposed to be sarcastic…right???   Very funny…in fact Hillaryiarious !!!

    • 1Brett1

      You’ve been stepping on HonestDebater1′s lines all day!

  • Ellen Dibble

    I wonder if there is a guest book that shows who goes into that Taliban office, and for how long, suggesting what might be under discussion.  My view of extremism, which is shaped by confrontations with Americans mostly, is that maybe extremism is defined as “unable to talk,” basically starting with the proposition that we are the Emirate of Whatever (or ought to be, and are determined to be soon enough, Just Say No), and you can come there to listen, promising to leave  stuffed with their talking points.  That is not really “talking,” but I like the idea.

    • HonestDebate1

      I’ve always considered beheadings, rape, torture in the name of God as a governing strategy to be extremism. Death and destruction, murder and mayhem, you know, that sort of thing.

  • scholarly observer

    Why don’t Mr. Ashbrook and his callers learn some history before pontificating?  The notion that the United States “created” the Taliban is absurd.  The Taliban took shape in the early 1990s after the Soviet and Afghan Communist regimes collapsed.  By that point, U.S. aid to the insurgents had long since ceased.  Learn some history!

    • AC

      that is interesting and i did not know that! who supports them now tho?

      • JobExperience

         Answer that query by inquiring “Who needs them?”

        • AC

          i dont know :(

        • tbphkm33

          You could just as easily ask “Who needs Christian evangelists?”  You have to be pragmatic, you cannot wish away religious movements. 

    • JobExperience

       Were you there?
      Why do you assume this account is accurate?
      What are your sources?
      My Mama done tol’ me ain’t gonna suffice.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      It is absurd. Reagan created Al Queda, not the T-ban Party.

    • tbphkm33

      Try a century earlier – the British fought the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1880′s.  Like most ideological movements, they do not develop overnight. 

  • ewessels


    • JobExperience

       Will the Koch’s declare war on T-Partiers?
      It’s analogous: It follows.

      • ewessels

        True, the Koch brothers often act n a criminal manner and the tea party organizations do represent a troubled segment of the far right in this country.  I imagine it won’t be long before the Koch bro’s disagree w/ something they do and “declare war” on them

  • AC

    missed most of the show, sorry to ask but where/who funds the Taliban? why?

    • hennorama

      AC – the Taliban is a bit like the stereotypical Mafia in the ways they get funding – largely from protection rackets (aka “taxing the local economy”), and partly from donations.

      A recent UN Security Council report estimated Taliban income of $400 million in Afghan calendar year 2011 (from March 21, 2011 to March 20, 2012). This includes money raised by taxing the opium harvest, demanding protection money from a variety of entities, including
      foreign-funded construction projects, etc.

      Quoting the report:

      “How does the Taliban get money?

      “The Team estimates that Taliban income for the year 21 March 2011 to 20 March 2012 (the Afghan calendar year) was around $400 million. About $275 million of that reached the Taliban leadership for their disbursement while around $125 million was collected, spent or misappropriated at the local level. ISAF estimates the annual cost to the Taliban of mounting attacks during 2011 at between $100 million and $155 million; the rest of the money goes to maintaining the insurgency. Since 2006 the Taliban have managed to finance an ever-increasing number of attacks, reflecting a year-on-year increase in income.

      “At the risk of over-simplification, the Team understands Taliban funding as follows: revenue raised from taxing the local economy serves primarily to support local operations and is only in a few cases channelled upwards. Revenue extorted from nation-wide enterprises such as narcotics producers and traffickers, construction and trucking companies, mobile telephone operators, mining companies and aid and development projects goes to the Taliban Financial Commission which answers to the Taliban leadership. Donations, which constitute a major source of funding, also go to the Taliban leadership.”

      And here’s just one example cited in the report:

      “The supply needs of the large numbers of international military forces in Afghanistan have created a market for transportation which the Taliban have also been able to exploit. For example, the ISAF Afghan Threat Finance Cell, an ISAF task force charged with looking at Taliban funding, estimated that the Taliban had taken $360 million from a $2.16 billion contract awarded to an Afghan trucking company by the United States military over a period of three years.”

      That’s nearly 17 percent of the total, and all funded by the US military.


      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        did it say how much of that comes from the CIA?

    • tbphkm33

      While it is true that the Taliban has branched out into the drug trade and organized crime, to some degree, both area’s go against their core beliefs.  The Taliban are actually against the use of drugs.  Cunning of them to profit off drugs supplied to the West.  It should be noted, under the Taliban in the 1990′s, the Afghanistan supply of drugs was severely curtailed.   

      The Taliban is not confined to Afghanistan, the overall ideological movement has a strong presence in Pakistan and across the regions.Funding from the Taliban largely comes from conservative Islamic elements in the Middle East and Asia, but does extend worldwide, including North America.  Akin to how Christian missionaries secure their funding from a worldwide base, with their highest support coming from North America and Europe.  

      In historical terms, it might be a case for comparing the Taliban to the Christian Crusaders.  In so far as both being driven by religious ideology and the sword.

  • JobExperience

    Epiphany: Send the T-party leadership to negotiate with the Taliban!

    • AC

      that would be reality tv gold!

      • JobExperience

        They’d just shoot past eachother like the Amerindians and Bluebellies on F-Troop.
        (I can’t say Hogan’s Heroes because of the pornographic subtext.)

        • AC

          i don’t know what any of this response means??

          • tbphkm33

            I think he is hinting toward the main actor in Hogan’s Heros, who reportedly was into pornography in the 1950s, when it was a major social taboo in the U.S.  From the articles I have read about him, it appears he was not into pornography any “stronger” than what is readily available on the internet today.  If I recall correctly, his passion for flicks lead to his downfall in Hollywood.  Then again, he was heavily typecast in Hogan’s Heros and might not have had many opportunities after the run of that show.  

          • J__o__h__n

            “I know nothing.” 

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      I sometimes think afganistan is really a neocon utopia. no public services, no govt regulations, low taxes, you can have all the guns you want and treat women however you like

  • JobExperience

    Ross comment: How can students who started out rescuing women from warlords be “a bunch of tribes?” As in Africa there are outside players and there are armed factions. There may be ethnic affinity, but that”s not tribes. Ross seems to be repeating  something his CO was told to say by the Home Office.
    Maybe being there was traumatic and he just doesn’t want to analyze, uses canned answers as a security blanket. “Tribes” suggests that opponents are somehow intrinsically inferior to our glorious corporate caliphate. They are guys with wallets and kids, trying to make a living  by the means available, just like gangbangers in the hood, and the burbs like Camry’s jostling one another on the Beltway. Rumsfeld might conclude that “You go with the gig you’ve got, not the one you aspire to.” Even drone operators eventually understand that those are real body  parts flying through the air.

  • madnomad554

    So, 25% of our military officers are relieved of their duties, due to adulterous relationships and or sexual misconduct. Add too that the rampant sexual assaults running loose throughout our military ranks. And this is the same military that was/is supposed to make life better for the woman of Afghanistan?

    Truly the more I know, the less I understand… 

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      I guess they figure they are better off dead

  • tbphkm33

    Attempting to run an Afghan government without the religious conservative Taliban is akin to attempting to run a U.S. government without the religious conservative Republicans.

    That should fire up the discussion board trolls.

    Still, it is a reality, a successful government is an inclusive government.  You cannot exclude a large element of the population and expect to have a successful government or prosperous nation.  Some of us have been saying for over ten years that the Taliban has to be included in Afghanistan.

    The political reality in most countries is that you have to share power with religious conservatives.  Political elements that left unchecked would strive for total power and impose their morality on others.  You have to find a common ground, that includes everyone, while keeping the extremists in check.  Afghanistan under the Taliban was a nightmare, but lets not fool ourselves and think that life under a rightwing Christian regime in the U.S. would be any prettier.  

    The mix of conservatism and religion is a facet that a number of countries are struggling to integrate into a modern existence.  Afghanistan is not alone in this, you see it right through the Middle East (including Israel), you see it in the U.S., you see it in Eurasia and in Latin America.  No where has a successful nation developed without including the religious conservative element, while simultaneously, contained the societally corrosive aspirations of those elements. 

    • dwwilcox

      Afghanistan under a Karzai puppet has been a kleptocrazy of corruption and drug dealing

  • TomK_in_Boston

    T-ban – Mohammed + Jesus = T-party

    • brettearle


      The Tea Party is obnoxious.

      But they wouldn’t become violently autocratic.

      If they did, then they wouldn’t be the Tea Party.

      Your satire–if it is a satire–is over the top.

    • HonestDebate1

      The Tea Party is about smaller government and more freedom. It’s not about God or religion. That’s just silly.

    • ExcellentNews

      The Tea Party is a creature of the corporate oligarchy, funded and directed by a handful of PACs that pull the strings behind the scene. Jesus, small government… etc. are just buzzwords to enlist the plebes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001708537001 Joshua Evans

    We can hate people without being at war with them Ex: Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Chavez’ Venezuala. The Taliban are terrible people, but that doesn’t mean we need to have a perpetual foreign war with them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      when did we have peace with korea? it seems like all of our wars are perpetual. that makes it easier for the military industrial complex to provide money for their shareholders

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    perhaps “blown up” was not the best way to describe the situation

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