Biden Administration’s Plan for ‘Power Sharing’ with the Taliban Is a Serious Mistake

While old children’s books, toy potatoes, and the British royal family dominated the airwaves, the Biden Administration’s plan for Afghanistan was leaked to the Washington Post. It’s … not good.

… the Biden administration has proposed sweeping plans for an interim power-sharing government between the Taliban and Afghan leaders, and stepped-up involvement by Afghanistan’s neighbors — including Iran — in the peace process.

The deal would give the Taliban equal say with the current government as to who the interim president would be, plus roughly equal power and patronage in Afghan public offices, in preparation for new elections at some point in the future. Once the agreement is signed, all hostilities would supposedly stop – in theory, allowing the US to withdraw its troops by May 1.

From then on, the only outside force protecting Afghanistan from the Taliban would be “a high-level diplomatic effort” (as Secretary of State Antony Blinken put it), to include the US, Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, and India – never mind that four of these six are on the Taliban’s side (Nikkei Asia, WaPo, DW, and Hindustan Times).

I get that many Americans have either forgotten Afghanistan or tired of it. Leaders of both political parties talk of “endless wars” as if they can somehow be turned off like a light switch. Ironically, the Biden Administration has done us all a favor with this error – they have revealed the true cost of withdrawal – a shaky “interim” government all but certain to fall to the longtime al Qaeda hosts.

Indeed, Blinken even reverted to using withdrawal as a way to strong-arm the Afghan government (first WaPo story).

Along with the proposal, shared with both sides over the past week by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that a U.S. departure remains under active consideration and could lead to “rapid territorial gains” by the Taliban.

This is bad, and time will not make it better, unless it allows for a similarly harsh letter to the Taliban to be leaked.

As it is, the Administration is giving off the dangerous whiff of disinterest and weakness – exactly the kind of thing for which they (rightly) criticized their predecessor.

Oh, and just in case anyone out there thinks that the 2001 causus belli in Afghanistan is a thing of the past …

The Pentagon has said that the Taliban has not complied with its commitments under the deal, including breaking its ties with al-Qaeda and reducing the level of violence.

In other words, the killers of nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11/01 are still under Taliban protection, still get Taliban support, and still would be able to operate freely if Afghanistan fell back under Taliban rule.

Meanwhile, those who think the return of Great Power geopolitics enables us to put matters like the Taliban and al Qaeda behind us should reread the Nikkei Asia and second WaPo piece. Even if the American people no longer care about the Taliban defeating us in Afghanistan (a supposition I will not concede), America’s enemies in Moscow and Beijing are looking forward to it.

Then there is the matter of the suffering the Afghan people would endure under a Taliban resurgence. Those who don’t have the humanity to wish to stop the mass slaughter and totalitarianism would be reminded that similar hopelessness in Syria led to a wave of escapees that destabilized much of Eastern Europe and opened the door for Russia to regain influence via its support for racist and authoritarian parties in that region.

The options in Afghanistan are not “war” or “peace.” The Taliban cannot be trusted. They cannot be allowed to reconquer Afghanistan. They must be defeated. The war will continue even if we leave – and just as in Iraq, the rise of tyrannical darkness will force us to go back. I would rather not pay for the same real estate twice.

I’m not saying victory in Afghanistan will be easy or without cost. I am saying the only real alternative is defeat, which comes with a much higher cost than we realize.

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