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EDITORIAL: Vietnam flashback in Afghanistan

President Obama smokes the peace pipe with the Taliban

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 4, 2012

You know the Taliban is feeling pretty good about life when it opens up a branch office. On Tuesday, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid announced that the insurgent group would be establishing a presence in Qatar's capital city of Doha to facilitate negotiations with the United States. The location is significant because it is the base for Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a radical Islamist scholar who is reportedly brokering a peace deal that would give the Obama administration a face-saving means of exiting Afghanistan. An about-face would be a better idea.

Mr. Qaradawi is an exiled spiritual leader of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. In the Islamist world, the term "spiritual leader" is usually used to describe a radical who advocates violence but does not actually pull the trigger. This particular fellow believes the NATO presence in Afghanistan is an unjust occupation and has described those killed by U.S. forces as "martyrs," so he is not exactly an honest broker.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been watching these developments warily, concerned that the United States may seek a private deal with the Taliban. The government in Kabul insists that any peace talks be led by a Karzai representatiave to prevent being cut out of the negotiations and handed a fait accompli. Washington has publicly backed this approach but the American sellout of the South Vietnamese in negotiations with the communist Viet Cong in the 1970s hovers ominously in the background.

The Taliban rejects any involvement by the Karzai government in peace talks. "There are two essential sides in the current situation in the country that has been ongoing for the past 10 years," Taliban spokesman Mr. Mujahid said. "One is the [Taliban-led] Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the other side is the United States of America and their foreign allies." The Taliban sees itself as the only legitimate Afghan government and wants no place at the table for Mr. Karzai. The radicals helped reinforce this point in September when they killed former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had been mediating other peace talks. He was assassinated by a suicide bomber, an act that peace-broker Mr. Qaradawi called "the greatest of all sorts of jihad in the cause of Allah."

The proposed terms of the peace deal require America to release terrorist detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, lift U.N. sanctions against the Taliban and recognize it as a legitimate political entity. Even when the Taliban was in power in the 1990s, Washington did not recognize it, so this would be a significant step. For its part, the Taliban promises to end its alliance with al Qaeda and not seek to overthrow the current Afghan government. In other words, in return for tangible actions on the part of the United States, the Taliban is willing to make some promises that they can easily break later.

Last month, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. stated, "The Taliban, per se, is not our enemy." The White House later clarified that America was only in Afghanistan to defeat al Qaeda, which, at least in that country, has largely been accomplished. All signs from the Obama administration point to reaching an agreement with the Taliban as quickly as possible to facilitate beating feet from Afghanistan by 2014. Then, apparently, we will simply hope the insurgents keep their promises.

The Washington Times

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