During a recent interview with Newsweek, Vice President Biden outlined part of the administration’s strategy about how it plans to end the 10-year long war in Afghanistan. It’s no secret that the United States and its allies have been in talks with the Taliban. Just yesterday, senior officials told Reuters that this negotiation track has “reached a critical juncture.” Biden expounded on the overall policy with Newsweek:
BIDEN: We’re engaged in a reconciliation process. Whether it will work or not is another question. But we are in a position where if Afghanistan ceased and desisted from being a haven for people who do damage and have as a target the United States of America and their allies, that’s good enough. That’s good enough. We’re not there yet.
Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us.
Of course, the right wing ignored everything Biden had said and focused on the “Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy” line. Mitt Romney was particularly perturbed, tweeting that the comment is “an outrageous affront to our troops carrying out the fight in Afghanistan.” His campaign also released a statement, saying that Biden and President Obama “must immediately explain themselves.”
But as the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen points out, Romney may have to have a little chat with his top adviser on Afghanistan, who has endorsed the same policy Biden laid out with Newsweek:
And as it turns out, Romney’s top foreign policy advisor on Afghanistan happens to agree with Biden’s line about talks with the Taliban. In June, [Former Bush administration official James] Shinn endorsed direct negotiations with the Taliban, and in August, Shinn endorsed “a negotiated settlement” with the Taliban, which would give them a formal role in the Afghan government. “Negotiation does not represent an easy or early way out of Afghanistan for the United States and its NATO allies, but it is the only way in which this war is likely to end,” he argued.
What are the foreign policy differences between what Joe Biden said and what Romney’s top foreign policy advisor on Afghanistan said? There are no differences.
“I do not negotiate with the Taliban,” Romney said during last month’s GOP foreign policy debate. Indeed, Benen writes, “I’ll look forward to the Romney campaign explaining why its own foreign policy is misguided.”