James Dobbins is director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation. He served as the U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan between 2001 and 2002.
“In official American parlance, the effort to negotiate a peace accord with the Taliban leadership has been labeled reconciliation, while the process of bringing over insurgent fighters is known as reintegration.
The U.S. has preferred reintegration. Each insurgent brought over weakens the enemy and strengthens the government forces. In Iraq, such a process broke the back of the Sunni insurgency, resulting in the massive defection of enemy fighters, who in 2007 moved more or less overnight from killing American soldiers to working for them. This was achieved without U.S. concessions on the nature of the Iraqi state.
Reconciliation would require mutual accommodation between two competing Afghan leaderships, inevitably opening the prospect of substantive trade-offs that worry U.S. officials and many Afghans.
So it is easy to see why bottom-up reintegration has gotten a warmer U.S. endorsement than top-down reconciliation. But there are reasons to doubt that the Iraq model would work in Afghanistan.
Thatâ€™s partly because the Taliban isnâ€™t losing. By 2007, Iraqâ€™s Sunni minority, the smallest of the countryâ€™s three major sectarian groups, had been decisively beaten by the majority Shiites. It was only after this defeat that the Sunni turned to U.S. forces for protection. By contrast, the Taliban insurgency is rooted not in Afghanistanâ€™s smallest ethnic group, but in its largest, the Pashtun. For several years, these insurgents have been winning. ..
…It thus makes sense for the U.S. to support Mr. Karzai in his effort at reconciliation, even as it also presses ahead with Gen. Stanley McChrystalâ€™s plans for reintegration.
…President Obama should urge Mr. Karzai to appoint a broadly representative delegation to help him conduct any negotiations, one that would include Tajik, Uzbek, Hazzara and women leaders.
Finally, Afghanistanâ€™s factions will never make peace as long as their foreign sponsors foment conflict. Pakistan may be able to deliver the Taliban to a peace agreement, but this would only start a new civil war unless India, Iran and Russian were also able to deliver the old Northern Alliance. "
2010-05-14 16:31:02 UTC