As the United States ends its mission in Afghanistan, U.S. policymakers have already begun to reckon with American military failures over 20 years of fighting. But the war’s disastrous finale was not solely the result of armed conflict. In cataloging its mistakes, Washington must also seriously evaluate its diplomatic efforts—especially peace talks with the Taliban led by U.S. negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad.
Both President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden made clear their desire to end U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. But the negotiations, which were largely held on Taliban terms, were neither necessary nor desirable—in fact, the eventual deal struck in Doha likely hastened the Taliban’s victory. If Biden wishes history to judge his withdrawal from Afghanistan as an acceptable foreign policy decision, his administration must reckon with this diplomatic failure and begin to take a tougher and more realistic approach toward the Taliban. Doing so is the only way to prevent the reemergence of a global terrorist hotbed.
Washington cannot simply wash its hands of Afghanistan and wish away a terrorist threat that will likely grow over the months and years to come.
Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s desperation to conclude a deal will make this process more difficult. Three years of negotiations empowered Taliban hard-liners, many of whom now play central roles in the new interim government—including al Qaeda–linked Haqqani network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani. As they craft a post-withdrawal strategy, U.S. officials must therefore change their diplomatic tack—judging the Taliban by their actions before granting them international recognition or economic assistance. This approach, coupled with a new counterterrorism strategy, is the best way to protect vital U.S. interests in the years to come.
Read the full article from Foreign Affairs.
More from CNAS
PodcastEconomic Crisis in Afghanistan
Alex Zerden, founder and principal of Capitol Peak Strategies discusses the economic crisis in Afghanistan. He spoke with Bloomberg's David Westin. Listen to the full convers...
By Alex Zerden
VideoDealing with Afghanistan Under the Taliban
CEO of the Center for a New American Security Richard Fontaine shares his take on the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban with NHK-World Japan.Watch the full conversation ...
By Richard Fontaine
VideoSome United States aid to Afghanistan should be conditional, says national security expert
Lisa Curtis, senior fellow and director of the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, former deputy assistant to the president on the Nationa...
By Lisa Curtis
PodcastMicheal Herson & Lisa Curtis, The Hill, Lessons since 9-11, The Biden Doctrine
Lisa Curtis, the director of the Indo-Pacific security program at the Center for a New American Security discusses the Biden doctrine, working with the Taliban to advance US i...
By Lisa Curtis