Rapprochement with Taliban will not solve problems

Reintegration. Reconciliation.

Recently these two words have picked up media buzz as possible strategies for dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Reintegration allows current fighters to eschew violence and re-enter society; reconciliation would involve governmental recognition of the Taliban and an invitation to take part in peace talks and future political decisions. However, neither of these two strategies is a complete solution.

We are by no means advocating that reintegration and reconciliation are harmful — they aren’t. Yet, it is unlikely that a more open invitation for these soldiers to give up their guns will cause their entire army to dissolve: Reintegration has already been an option in Afghanistan for over five years.

Reconciliation is even more difficult and a much more politically charged matter. The Taliban have had very real connections with al Qaeda that may make any sort of U.S. approval of this strategy impossible. Even with United Nations support for bringing the Taliban into the discussion, Pakistan’s agreement to assist, and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia likely to mediate, it is unclear if agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government in Kabul can be reached.

Army General Stanley McChrystal recently said of the Afghanistan conflict, “This is all a war of perceptions.... This is all in the minds of the participants.” And it is. The Taliban continue to fight with the hope that other nations will give up or, more likely, be distracted by some other fight, allowing the Taliban to remove a heavily corrupt puppet government from leadership.

Today, Afghanistan has a government unable to provide protection for its people, and foreign governments are continuing to figure out the best way to proceed. But while world leaders are kicking around reintegration and reconciliation as possible paths to peace, the Taliban have yet to enter the discussion. We have yet to see a real solution that could gain acceptance from nations around the world or from the Afghan people themselves.