The Corner

Building the Afghan Sharia State

In today’s column, I highlight Afghanistan’s apostasy prosecution against Said Musa in arguing that the democracy project, our government’s experiment in in Islamic nation-building, has failed and that we ought to pull the plug on it. Among other things, I argue:

 The War On Terror hasn’t been about 9/11 for a very long time. You may think our troops are in Afghanistan to defeat al-Qaeda and the Taliban — that’s what you’re told every time somebody has the temerity to suggest that we should leave. Our commanders, however, have acknowledged that destroying the enemy is not our objective. In fact, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the former top U.S. commander, said what is happening in Afghanistan is not even our war. “This conflict and country are [theirs] to win,” he wrote, “not mine.”

It’s not our war, nor is it something those running it contemplate winning. “We are not trying to win this militarily,” the late Richard Holbrooke, President Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan, told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria last fall. Indeed, the administration had concluded — upon what Ambassador Holbrooke described as consultation with our military commanders — that the war could not be won “militarily.” So the goal now is not to defeat the Taliban but to entice them into taking a seat at the table — in the vain hope that if they buy into the political process they will refrain from confederating with the likes of al-Qaeda.

Now I see that Steve Coll is reporting (in the new issue of the New Yorker) that U.S.-Taliban talks are underway:

 Last year, …  as the U.S.-led Afghan ground war passed its ninth anniversary, and Mullah Omar remained in hiding, presumably in Pakistan, a small number of officials in the Obama Administration—among them the late Richard Holbrooke, the special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan—argued that it was time to try talking to the Taliban again.

Holbrooke’s final diplomatic achievement, it turns out, was to see this advice accepted. The Obama Administration has entered into direct, secret talks with senior Afghan Taliban leaders, several people briefed about the talks told me last week. The discussions are continuing; they are of an exploratory nature and do not yet amount to a peace negotiation. 

How good to know that, to get the Taliban on board, it won’t be necessary to change the U.S.-sponsored Afghan constitution a bit.  As my column explains, the nation we’re building is already a sharia state. 

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