5 years, 10 months ago
In an astonishing announcement today carried by the AP and other sources, Marine General James Mattis said that “we should immediately begin negotiations with both al Qaeda in Iraq and the Taliban and al Qaeda in the tribal areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Military action can only carry us so far, and eventually political reconciliation is necessary to address the root cause of the problems that cause the jihadists.” “I sincerely believe,” continued Mattis, “that with the right grievance amelioration, participation and representation in the government and infrastructure, our erstwhile enemies – al Qaeda and the Taliban – can be our friends.” Finally, in a statement that brought stares of disbelief from the audience at Quantico, Mattis wrapped up by saying that “there just seems to be no military solution to any of these problems.” For a once confident warrior among the Sunni insurgency, Mattis appeared tired and disheveled.
Er … maybe not. If Mattis had said this he would have been rushed to the hospital, or perhaps sent to for-cause drug testing. The Marines are warrior enough to have defeated al Qaeda, knowing that men who travel across the globe to wage holy war against you, while high on Epinephrine, must be killed. They are also warriors enough to have battled the indigenous Sunni insurgency to exhaustion, making reconciliation with U.S. forces seem a delightful proposition.
From the top down, the Marines don’t engage in hand-wringing because any group, civilian or military, takes on the personality of its leadership. The British have a pitiful example in David Miliband (blogs here) who today made a mockery of British warfighting capabilities and the backbone of the U.K. when he pitifully prostrated himself before the world asking for peace and happiness all around, along with complete capitulation by NATO.
David Miliband will today argue there is “no military solution” to the spread of extremism in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal areas, and back the pursuit of political reconciliation in both countries.
In a speech the foreign secretary is due to deliver in Washington, a draft of which has been obtained by the Guardian, he will say that Pakistan and Afghanistan “top the list of UK foreign policy priorities”, and both represent fragile democracies facing huge challenges.
He will underline Britain’s commitment to pursuing parallel military and political strategies in Helmand province’s Gereshk valley, where 8,000 British troops are fighting the Taliban. More controversially from Washington’s point of view, Miliband will also offer British support for negotiations between Pakistan’s new civilian government and Pashtun leaders in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). The region bordering Afghanistan has become a haven for Afghan and Pakistani militants, as well as al-Qaida elements.
US officials have privately expressed growing alarm at the talks, telling journalists the accompanying drop in Pakistani counter-insurgency operations has given militants a breathing space. However, addressing the Centre for Strategic and International Studies today, Miliband will reject “the false choice” of political reconciliation or military action “Afghanistan and Pakistan need effective security forces. They need to take on, with international help where necessary, those committed to violence. But there is no military solution to the problems of the Fata or the Gereshk valley.
Rather than ousting the Taliban from Helmand, the U.S. Marines are having to do that job for them. Miliband seems not to acknowledge the success that the Marines are having, nor the poor experience the British had with “talking” to the Taliban in Musa Qala. In Musa Qala the British struck a deal with whom they considered to be a “moderate” Taliban to rise up like the Anbar awakening when the British and U.S. troops began their assault on the town. Rather than rising up against the hard core Taliban fighters, the “moderate” commander sat in a home ten miles away and screamed for help.
No, there is no acknowledgement of the facts on the ground, including the fact that Taliban and al Qaeda will not reconcile, the very idea of this being a moral evil to their world view. To be sure, the soft power of counterinsurgency must be applied to the population, but security comes first, as the Afghanis have themselves told us.
This capitulation is not only intellectually unsound, it is also very bad form by Miliband. How the British can put such a shameful politician in office speaks volumes of what was once a great kingdom. Neville Chamberlain has a modern day friend. Meanwhile, General Mattis doubtless will not recommend reconciliation with the Taliban. To be friends with the Afghan people, surely. To have the population engaged in the political process, of course. But not the Taliban and al Qaeda. And there is no peace without victory.