At home the Obama administration’s Afpak strategy has been noted mostly for increased application of military force along the Hindu Kush (see prior post on the White House announcement). The military aspect was especially underlined by the President’s departure for the NATO summit shortly after his March 27 remarks. Saturday our NATO allies agreed – grudgingly – to increase troop commitments in Afghanistan.
Receiving at least as much attention in the region is the new policy’s call for an “honorable form of reconciliation” within Afghanistan. At a March 31 Hague Conference, Secretary of State Clinton lifted up this carrot in her remarks, “We must also support efforts by the Government of Afghanistan to separate the extremists of al-Qaida and the Taliban from those who joined their ranks not out of conviction, but out of desperation. This is, in fact, the case for a majority of those fighting with the Taliban. They should be offered an honorable form of reconciliation and reintegration into a peaceful society if they are willing to abandon violence, break with al-Qaida, and support the constitution.”
The opportunity for reconciliation was quickly rejected by a Taliban spokesman as a “lunatic idea.”
But the possibility of reconciliation – or some might say divide and conquer – has been welcomed by others in the region. In a commentary published over the weekend, Saeed Qureshi writes, “Realising that war in Afghanistan cannot be won alone by military means, Obama administration has decided to adopt a strategy of wooing those factions of Taliban that would be prepared for reconciliation and thus drop or cease fighting against the foreign troops. This would lessen the burden on the allied forces in Afghanistan to exclusively target Al-Qaida. America wants to close many fronts in her on going war on terrorism.”
For several months Afghanistan’s President Karzai has called for negotiation and mediation of talks between the Afghan government and elements of the Taliban movement. In mid-March the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, reportedly approved negotiations with Karzai’s representatives.