Two newly published articles provide dramatically different perspectives on the likelihood of achieving peace in Afghanistan. One is a prominent journalist's generally sympathetic account of the Obama administration's efforts to achieve peace with the Taliban; the second, from Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal, documents the Taliban's latest atrocities.
The more hopeful view of negotiations comes from Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a senior correspondent and associate editor of the Washington Post and author of a new book about the war in Afghanistan entitled Little America: The War Within the War. An excerpt published Monday in the Post shows that Chandrasekaran (who covered the war from February 2009 to July 2011) believes negotiations with the Taliban could have succeeded but for infighting between senior administration officials.
He portrays the late Richard Holbrooke, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's point man on Afghanistan, as a wily visionary who understood the importance of "a peace deal with the Taliban." In Chandrasekaran's view, Holbrooke's efforts might have succeeded but for the sabotage campaign waged by National Security Adviser James Jones and his top deputy, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute.
According to Little America, nearly every senior administration official involved with Afghanistan (with the notable exception of Gen. David Petraeus) joined Holbrooke in recognizing that the jihadist group could not be defeated and understanding the importance of negotiating peace with it. But Holbrooke's energetic efforts for peace were sabotaged by officials like Lute, who wanted the United Nations rather than the State Department to oversee the negotiations.
While officials in Washington discuss peace, the Taliban continues to prey on Afghan civilians. The Long War Journal reported Monday that Mullah Nazir, a key Taliban commander favored by the Pakistani government and military, has become the second local leader of the group to order an end to polio vaccinations in areas under his control until the U.S. stops drone strikes against terrorists.
Taliban pamphlets distributed by Nazir's group in South Waziristan liken the polio vaccine to sugar-coated poison. Nazir, considered a "good Taliban" commander by Pakistan's military and intelligence services, runs a Taliban faction has joined the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance brokered by al-Qaida late last year.
Meanwhile, a top Taliban leader was among those arrested in connection with a series of poisoning attacks that have sickened hundreds of Afghan schoolgirls in recent months. Roggio said he doubts the Taliban have any real interest in reconciliation or compromise."They want to restore the Islamic Emirate of the 1990s," he said, referring to the period of Taliban rule that ended shortly after 9/11 and the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. "The only way to make peace with the Taliban work is to crush them and make sure that their leaders are decapitated."