September 20, 2021

How America Should Deal With the Taliban

By Lisa Curtis

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.

  • Commentary
    • September 20, 2022
    International Community Must Do More to Protect Human Rights in Afghanistan

    Human rights in Afghanistan, especially those of women and girls, have deteriorated sharply during the first year of Taliban rule. The very real prospect of losing a generatio...

    By Lisa Curtis, Annie Pforzheimer & Jan Mohammad Jahid

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • September 19, 2022
    Time to Get Tough on the Taliban

    As Washington reduces its diplomatic engagement with the Taliban, it should also focus on finding creative ways to support Afghan civil society...

    By Lisa Curtis & Nader Nadery

  • Video
    • August 15, 2022
    Reflecting on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, one year later

    A year ago today, U.S. troops withdrew from Kabul and Afghans scrambled to escape as the Taliban took control. Retired U.S. Army Colonel Chris Kolenda joins CBS News to discus...

    By Christopher D. Kolenda

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Policy
    • August 15, 2022
    Why No One Was in Charge in Afghanistan

    On the first anniversary of the meltdown of Afghanistan, one of the best ways for the United States to respect the service and sacrifice of Americans and Afghans is to learn f...

    By Christopher D. Kolenda

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia