We must make Taliban believe their cause is hopeless
The U.S.-led coalition force in Afghanistan first must escalate its counterinsurgency operations and only then begin reconciliation efforts with leaders of the militancy, veterans of the Iraq campaign told members of Congress on Tuesday.This article is a rarity when it comes to a realistic assessment of what can be accomplished through negotiations with the Taliban. The clear answer is not much. To achieve peace you must convince your adversary that his cause is hopeless. Too many advocates seem bent on convincing the American public that our cause is hopeless. That is not a good position for the US or for the people of Afghanistan.
Ryan Crocker, former U.S. ambassador to Iraq and Pakistan, said reconciliation and reintegration will become possible only when insurgents are no longer sure they are winning.
Advocating a tougher military approach, he said, "You don't get cracks and fissures in a rock until you bring a hammer down on it."
The U.S. military appears to be preparing for such a strategy.
A Western official based in Afghanistan, discussing the situation there on the condition of anonymity, said "fireworks" were expected soon in the southern province of Kandahar, where U.S.-led troops have been engaged in what he described as "mopping-up operations" against the Taliban.
While the Obama administration has advocated reintegration efforts with lower members of the insurgency in Afghanistan, broader reconciliation efforts, which would involve talks with terrorist leaders, have not received much support.
David Kilcullen, who served as a senior counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. David H. Petraeus when the general headed the coalition force in Iraq, emphasized the need for a "big tactical hit" on the Taliban. (Gen. Petraeus is currently the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan.)
"We need to do some very significant damage to the Quetta Shura, Haqqani Network … We need to kill a lot of Taliban … You have to do that kind of damage to a terrorist organization before it becomes ready to talk," Mr. Kilcullen said.
He ruled out negotiating with the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network, saying the terrorist group, which has inflicted a large number of casualties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, is not acting on its own initiative.
Militant leaders in Afghanistan have shown little willingness to negotiate.
Last month, CIA Director Leon E. Panetta said U.S. officials had not seen "any firm intelligence" that insurgent groups in Afghanistan were interested in reconciliation.