Kaplan Article: Talking to the Taliban

Robert Kaplan has a new article out in The Atlantic called Talking to the Taliban (via Arab Media Shack).

Kaplan points out that Obama’s new strategy, which consists of convincing Pakistan to sever ties with its long time ally the Taliban, and increase them with its long time foe, India, makes no sense whatsoever and has little chance of success.

No matter how much leverage you hold over a country, it is rare that you can get it to act against its core self-interest. [...] The U.S. demands that Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), its spy agency, sever relations with the Taliban. Based on Pakistan’s own geography, this makes no sense from a Pakistani point of view. First of all, maintaining lines of communications and back channels with the enemy is what intelligence agencies do. What kind of a spy service would ISI be if it had no contacts with one of the key players that will help determine its neighbor’s future?……

Read the rest. As always, it’s well worth it and spot on.

About Chirol

Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol (1852 - 1929) was a journalist, prolific author, world historian, and British diplomat. He began his career as a foreign correspondent and later became editor of the London Times. After two decades as a journalist he joined Her Majesty's Foreign Ministry as a diplomat and was subsequently knighted for his distinguished service as a foreign affairs advisor. Additionally, he wrote a dozen books on foreign affairs including The Far Eastern Question (1896), Serbia and the Serbs (1914), The End of the Ottoman Empire (1920) and The Egyptian Problem (1921). He is generally credited with popularizing "Middle East" in reference to the Arabian Peninsula with his book The Middle Eastern Question (1903). "Chirol" is a US citizen and graduate student studying Defense and Strategic Studies and government contractor. As with the historical Chirol, he has traveled to over two dozen countries and lived abroad for many years. Chirol speaks English and German fluently with basic knowledge of manyl of others.
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9 Responses to Kaplan Article: Talking to the Taliban

  1. Eddie says:

    When has the OA issued an ultimatum to Pakistan regarding their relations with the Taliban (which itself is nowhere near a monolithic organization, the majority of which it appears are p’od Afghan tribes and groups spoiling for a fight with a corrupt Karzai admin that may not win re-election later this year, hence our attempts to bring them to the table)?
    We lack the ground to stand upon to do such a thing, not to mention doing so would undermine completely the Zadari government.

    Further, has Kaplan been ignoring events in Pakistan the past year? The Pakistani Taliban has been taking over Pakistan bit by bit, something fundamentalists in the ISI are pleased with but mostly everyone else in the organization and the broader Pakistani society views as alarming.

  2. Rob says:

    “mostly everyone else in the organization and the broader Pakistani society views as alarming.”

    That’s the big question but do you have sources on this? Actual local Pakistani media reports saying this. I’m skeptical that this is true. But its a critical point.

  3. Rob says:

    “something fundamentalists in the ISI are pleased with but mostly everyone else in the organization and the broader Pakistani society views as alarming

    Where are you getting this information? Are you reading it in Pakistani papers? Or getting it from Western media sources? I don’t think its a question of fundamentalists who support them but rather that they are as serving Pakistani interests.

  4. Eddie says:

    Where are you getting your information? I have not seen mass support for the Taliban in Pakistan. I have also not seen information regarding the Taliban being the most popular and legitimate Afghan faction.

  5. Eddie says:

    *Pakistan Taliban. Maybe mass support for Taliban activities in Afghanistan, but not what’s going down in SWAT or elsewhere.

  6. Rommel says:

    “The Pakistani Taliban has been taking over Pakistan bit by bit”

    I don’t know if I would characterize the fight between the government and Taliban in this manner. While its true the Pakistani Taliban have made gains in some areas (i.e. Swat) they have also lost ground in Bajaur and other territories where the Pakistani Army has been on the offensive. The last elections also saw the rise of a secular Pashtun party, so their support is far from monolithic even in predominately Pashtun areas. Add to this pressure from the US in North and South Waziristan which has scattered much of the leadership to regions out of NATO reach where they are not as welcome. That said, it could be a negative effect if they are still able to coordinate effective attacks in Pakistan proper.

    I think Eddie is right though – it seems reasonable to believe the Pakistani population as a majority do not favor the Taliban, even those who might not support the Zedari government. I’m sure plenty of sources can be dredged up to support that characterization (I’d be obliged to if you want.)

  7. Rob says:

    The Arabic press. They don’t refer to the Taliban the way they are alway referred to in the US. Here’s just one example:

    http://arabicsource.wordpress.com/2009/03/29/al-quds-on-the-obama-plan/

    And I assume that expertise of Afghanistn is greater than what’s at the disposal of the US.

  8. Rob says:

    ” it seems reasonable to believe the Pakistani population as a majority do not favor the Taliban, even those who might not support the Zedari government. ”

    Not supporting the Taliban is one thing. But we should not assume that the alternative to not being especially enthusiatic about the Taliban is to support the US plan.

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