Latest news on Taliban | ThePrint
A file photo of former Taliban fighters | Commons
Text Size:

Almost 18 years ago in Afghanistan, a lifetime for some of the soldiers fighting there, the U.S. entered its longest war. It did so honorably, after terrorists sheltered by the then-ruling Taliban killed nearly 3,000 people on American soil. It must now strive for an exit that is no less honorable.

In Doha, American and Taliban negotiators are reportedly nearing a deal to end hostilities. This would trade a full withdrawal of U.S. troops for a Taliban commitment to deny terrorists a base from which to launch another major attack. The Taliban would also agree to discuss sharing power with other Afghan factions and to accept a cease-fire, although the details of those promises remain vague.

Broadly speaking, this would be good news. It recognizes the hard reality that the Afghan war cannot be won. After battling the world’s most powerful military for almost two decades, the Taliban control more territory today than at any point since their fall from power in 2001. The U.S. has spent more than $840 billion, and at its peak deployed more than 100,000 troops, to achieve a mere stalemate. And the Taliban won’t stop fighting unless the U.S. promises that its remaining 14,000 troops in the country will leave.

The exit that’s envisaged is right to focus on the chief U.S. interest: preventing the country’s use as a haven by terrorists. It’s good that the U.S. has helped expand the liberties enjoyed by many Afghans — particularly women — but remember that those freedoms are still far more limited in the countryside and in areas not controlled by the government. A stable power-sharing agreement might leave progress, such as it is, relatively intact. Under conditions of peace, and removed from the taint of Western influence, ordinary Afghans might have a better chance of preserving their gains.

The question then is how best to achieve such stability.

Also read: Trump now faces Obama’s dilemma in Afghanistan

Reports suggest President Trump wants to pull out American forces before the 2020 election. This would be wrong. A schedule tied to the U.S. political calendar would encourage the Taliban to drag out talks and then seize power outright. This could start a civil war like the one that followed the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. In the subsequent chaos, there would be space for groups such as al-Qaeda to take root.

We are deeply grateful to our readers & viewers for their time, trust and subscriptions.

Quality journalism is expensive and needs readers to pay for it. Your support will define our work and ThePrint’s future.


The U.S. should instead try to preserve as much leverage as possible, for as long as possible. The most important factor is troop strength. Some U.S. forces (such as those engaged in training, as opposed to counterterrorism) can be brought home soon, but others should remain until the Taliban have shown they can keep a cease-fire, have agreed to a power-sharing framework and, preferably, have started to implement it. A smaller number of U.S. commandos, combined with airpower and local allies, should resist the spread of al-Qaeda and Islamic State while intra-Afghan talks proceed.

Money is another source of leverage. Any Afghan government will need generous financial assistance, not least to buy loyalty. Taliban commanders recognize this; some have suggested that if the U.S. withdraws its tanks, it would be welcome to return with bulldozers and cranes. U.S. negotiators should be clear that any attempt to impose the Taliban’s will by force, or to suppress women and minorities, would be met with a swift cutoff of all such assistance.

The U.S. and its allies should continue to give financial support to any legitimate government and its military, and to Afghan civil society, news media and education. Civilian aid has always been the least of the U.S.’s burdens in Afghanistan. Trump’s State Department has disbursed less than $3 billion in total. Slashing that assistance now would seriously erode the progress ordinary Afghans have made since 2001.

Finally, the U.S. must bring its diplomatic leverage to bear. Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states should be urged not to promote local proxies and disrupt the intra-Afghan peace process. China and Iran, despite frictions on other fronts, need to be engaged. Both are interested in getting the U.S. out of Afghanistan, preventing the spread of extremism and restoring stability in the region. All these parties should be brought into the process and given a stake in the outcome.

The U.S. can’t afford to be naive. It should work with Pakistan and Central Asian states to develop “over-the-horizon” capabilities — the ability to strike at terrorist targets from just beyond Afghanistan’s borders using airpower and special forces. Ideally, the U.S. would continue to share intelligence with Afghan commando forces and perhaps even eventually reestablish a counterterrorism presence within the country. In any event, it will need the ability to disrupt al-Qaeda and Islamic State from afar.

At the same time, the threat to the U.S. needs to be kept in perspective. Al-Qaeda is a diminished force in Afghanistan, and the Taliban have almost as much interest in uprooting Islamic State as Washington does. Spending billions more on battling the Taliban is not the smartest way to disrupt such terrorist groups.

It’s time to end this war. For its own sake, as well as for Afghanistan’s, the U.S. needs to do it carefully. – Bloomberg

Also read: There are real risks in allowing terrorist safe havens


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

News media is in a crisis & only you can fix it

You are reading this because you value good, intelligent and objective journalism. We thank you for your time and your trust.

You also know that the news media is facing an unprecedented crisis. It is likely that you are also hearing of the brutal layoffs and pay-cuts hitting the industry. There are many reasons why the media’s economics is broken. But a big one is that good people are not yet paying enough for good journalism.

We have a newsroom filled with talented young reporters. We also have the country’s most robust editing and fact-checking team, finest news photographers and video professionals. We are building India’s most ambitious and energetic news platform. And we aren’t even three yet.

At ThePrint, we invest in quality journalists. We pay them fairly and on time even in this difficult period. As you may have noticed, we do not flinch from spending whatever it takes to make sure our reporters reach where the story is. Our stellar coronavirus coverage is a good example. You can check some of it here.

This comes with a sizable cost. For us to continue bringing quality journalism, we need readers like you to pay for it. Because the advertising market is broken too.

If you think we deserve your support, do join us in this endeavour to strengthen fair, free, courageous, and questioning journalism, please click on the link below. Your support will define our journalism, and ThePrint’s future. It will take just a few seconds of your time.

Support Our Journalism

Share Your Views


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here