Fanatics Don't Compromise

USA Today

For the Afghan government or the United States to negotiate with the Taliban to stop the insurgency involves extraordinary risks.

Let us remember that the Taliban was a radical regime in Afghanistan with an appalling record of human rights abuses against women, children and anyone who opposed it. And it provided the sanctuary for al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks on the US.

Since 2001, the Taliban's brutal insurgency has sought to destroy Afghanistan's emerging democracy. It ruthlessly murders Afghan men, women and children, blows up schools, and destroys the infrastructure critical for modernizing Afghanistan. With the Taliban's record, what concessions could the government reasonably concede?

Any negotiations involving Washington would undermine US credibility. Spurred by the 9/11 attacks, the US ended Taliban control in order to build a democratic society in Afghanistan and prevent the resurgence of the Taliban's extremist policies.

Negotiations would legitimize questions about whether US policy was serious. Was US policy a firm statement of principle or momentary convenience? Critics would charge that Washington's talk about rebuilding an independent Afghanistan was just talk.

Given that background, it is unclear what negotiations would accomplish.

Since radical ideologies by their nature do not compromise, we are rightly skeptical about any Taliban claims of conversion to democracy. More likely, the Taliban would see any negotiations as the instrument for winning politically what it could not accomplish militarily.

The idea of negotiating with the Taliban might come from pessimism about defeating the Taliban insurgency, skepticism about democracy succeeding or a waning desire to fight after seven years of war. That matters less than the fact that negotiations could convince the Taliban that Afghanistan's government and the United States have doubts about victory and want a way out of the war.

Negotiations would only weaken Afghanistan, sow doubts about US policy and strengthen the Taliban.

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