“part of the political fabric”

The US Secretary of State is heading to London. Not to save The Process™ here, but to attend two conferences. Tomorrow it’s Yemen. And on Thursday, Afghanistan, where a familiar strategy is being discussed – as an short Irish Times report noted on Saturday

On a 24-hour visit to Pakistan, [US defence secretary Robert] Gates emphasised that US strategy consisted of turning the tide in the Afghan war so as to convince Taliban leaders to sit down and negotiate. “We and our many allies are increasing our capabilities in Afghanistan to try and change the momentum and bring the Taliban, those elements of the Taliban that are willing to reconcile, into the government,” he said.

Seeking to counter Pakistani perceptions that the Taliban would replace the government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghanistan president, Mr Gates told Pakistani journalists the US recognised that the Taliban were “part of the political fabric of Afghanistan at this point”. “The question is whether the Taliban at some point of this process are ready to help build a 21st-century Afghanistan or whether they just want to kill people,” he added.

And as a subsequent report in Irish Times added

A federal minister in Islamabad echoed Pakistan’s fears that a fresh influx of 30,000 US troops might drive more Taliban fighters into Pakistan. “We know they are not a popular force,” he said. “The Afghans will probably never give them a majority in parliament.

But with Pakistan’s help and only with Pakistan’s help, the return of the Taliban to the political high table will be a far more stabilising development for Afghanistan than . . . [a US] surge.” Renewed discussion of the possibility of a negotiated settlement presents an opportunity for Pakistan’s intelligence services, which were instrumental in the creation of the Afghan Taliban in the mid-1990s, to reassert their potential for US foreign policy objectives in the region.

But, as with the creative ambiguity used here, there is the risk of unintended consequences.

As I said in a previous related post

“Whether they can identify, and enlist, suitably inclined capos warlords to be politicians remains to be seen.”

And from an earlier related post [*cuckoo* cuckoo* – Ed]

Interestingly, [Brendan] Simms places the “liberal interventionism” of Mitchell Reiss here amidst a US strategy of “the export of democracy” – a theme which was explored by Adam Curtis in part three of his documentary series The Trap. [added links]

If you can find it Curtis’ programme is worth watching, in particular, as one of his criticisms of that US strategy in the past was that it, more often than not, resulted in incomplete, or partial, versions of the democracy intended.