The killing of Osama bin Laden has not solved all the problems the US-led NATO forces are facing in Afghanistan. This is hardly surprising – Osama bin Laden has never been a major figure in the Afghan Taliban movement, he was rather a guest or a fugitive trying to find refuge in the Taliban controlled areas.
But in the eyes of the western establishment Osama bin Laden was “enemy No 1”, which made the whole Taliban movement his associates (although no one has ever blamed the Taliban movement with being part of the conspiracy surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks).
As far back as October 2001, when the US was only starting their military campaign against Afghanistan, many diplomats in private talks discussed the possibility of finding common ground and terms of an agreement with moderate factions within the Taliban movement. George W. Bush thought it better to pursue his strong-arm policy. The result is obvious – none of the aims proclaimed at the beginning of the military campaign has ever been achieved. The west-backed government of Hamid Karzai is growing weaker and weaker day by day. The drug production and drug trafficking has been rocketing to sky-high figures. The Taliban is growing much stronger than it had been before the NATO invasion.
Well, one of the aims HAS been achieved – Osama bin Laden has been eliminated or, at least, the world has believed that he has been eliminated.
This opens the way for the US and NATO to start pulling out their troops from Afghanistan. What happens next – time will show, but the present moment is the right one to demonstrate to the public that the war has been won (even if it has been lost).
But this means that the US should hand over the power in Afghanistan to some reliable partner. Hamid Karzai is not the one. The only force really capable of ensuring at least relative stability in the country is the Taliban.
So, lately there has been more and more news concerning closed-door contacts between US officials and Taliban representatives. Some of the latest, as The Washington Post reports, took place in Qatar and Germany some “eight or nine days ago”. While State Department representatives are declining to comment on the matter, other sources point out that the US administration is really speeding up its contacts with the Taliban.
This, again, is hardly surprising. Pulling troops out of Afghanistan right away would only result in overall chaos which would lead to unpredictable consequences. But Obama made a promise in 2008 to start the pullout in July 2011 and complete it by 2014. He is compelled to abide by his pre-election promises. Therefore, it is only natural that the administration is going to build up some bridges to connect with its former foes and present them as their true allies and future legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.
This is not too difficult a task. In fact, the US has demonstrated much too often that it is ready to rename foes into allies and vice versa. Osama bin Laden was a true US ally (and a CIA creation) at the times of the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, but very quickly turned into an adversary and “public enemy No 1”. So, there seem to be very few obstacles in just renaming the Taliban into a reliable partner and ally.
But the US should hurry. The fact is that even its closest allies in the West are growing impatient. As The Daily Telegraph has reported, the US is very much alarmed by the plans of the present British government to start an early withdrawal from Afghanistan. The very idea of the withdrawal raises no concerns, but the Americans would like to be first even in this particular case. They just cannot tolerate that someone would think of a withdrawal before they get on satisfactory terms with the future rulers of Afghanistan.
And this only means that the negotiation process between the US officials and the Taliban representatives already going on in countries outside Afghanistan will only be speeded up.