Last month, U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said the only way to get the Taliban to the negotiating table for real peace negotiations is apply more military pressure. “The Taliban needs to feel more pain before you get to a real readiness to reconcile,” Crocker said.
In an interview that aired yesterday on CNN, host Fareed Zakaria asked outgoing Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen if the withdrawal President Obama ordered this year would in any way impede this fight to the negotiating table. Mullen, in what was his last interview as JCS chairman, said it would not:
ZAKARIA: Why has it not been possible to draw some of the Taliban back into the fold? Ryan Crocker, the ambassador, says it’s because we haven’t yet hit them hard enough or they haven’t — they don’t feel beaten down enough. Do you think that’s true?
MULLEN: I do agree with that. I think that reconciliation takes place. You get them to the table when they’re in a much weaker position. And there’s no question that at some point in time there’s got to be ail political solution here and reconciliation is key to that.
ZAKARIA: But is that compatible, that desire to hammer them more? Is that compatible with this drawdown?
Watch the clip:
But since Crocker’s comment, peace negotiations with the Taliban are now virtually non-existent after Taliban operatives killed former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, the leader of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. Former presidential candidate and Northern Alliance leader Abdullah Abdullah said the lesson of the attack should be that “we shouldn’t fool ourselves” that the Taliban “are willing to make peace.” Indeed, President Hamid Karzai announced today that he would instead turn his attention to cutting a deal with the Pakistanis.
But Mullen’s comment pretty much puts to rest claims by critics of Obama’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan that it wouldn’t leave enough troops there to force the Taliban to the negotiating table. “I don’t think there will be serious negotiations with the Taliban until they are convinced that they cannot succeed” in attaining their goals, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said in July, “through the force of arms on the battlefield.” Yet Mullen — the outgoing top military official — disagrees.