As I mentioned in an earlier post, I do think part of the problem with US policy and strategy in Afghanistan has to do with mirror-imaging and untested assumptions. As this ABC News article points out, one of these assumptions is that the leadership of the insurgency won’t give up or reconcile unless they believe the US and its allies are winning.
Asked how far along the talks were, the Afghan senior official would only say that the talks with the Pakistani leadership and the Haqqani network “are all the way to the top.”
The general U.S. skepticism toward talking to its enemies has become increasingly public. CIA Director Leon Panetta went farther than most American officials recently when he said told ABC’s Jake Tapper on “This Week” that reconciliation efforts were a non-starter until the United States made more progress in Afghanistan.
“We’ve seen no evidence of that and very frankly, my view is that with regards to reconciliation, unless they’re convinced that the United States is going to win and that they’re going to be defeated, I think it’s very difficult to proceed with a reconciliation that’s going to be meaningful,” Panetta added.
But Afghan and Pakistani officials dismiss that thinking, with one calling it a “false premise.”
“If you know Afghans, you know that thinking is wrong,” says the Afghan senior official. “If you make an Afghan feel weak, then you end up forcing him to be the opposite of what the U.S. thinks he will become.”
For a Pashtun, losing is simply not an option — honor is at stake. Reconciliation (Nanawati) is possible when there is mutual respect and an equilibrium — not domination by one side.
We have got to start thinking about these issues from an Afghan perspective, and not our own.