On Tuesday, President Obama announced from the G-8 summit in Northern Ireland that his administration will help facilitate direct peace talks with Taliban leaders in Qatar in the coming days.
“This is an important first step toward reconciliation, although it is a very early step,” Obama was quoted in Defcon Hill. “We anticipate there will be a lot of bumps in the road.”
The peace effort is aimed at encouraging trust between Taliban members and Afghan security forces, which took the lead effective Tuesday as US and NATO forces handed over control of combat operations, which is part of Obama’s goal to end the decade-long war.
Republicans were skeptical about peace talks with the Taliban, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who claimed talks should only occur under certain circumstances that include military defeat.
“Talking to them now, before we make a commitment about a post-2014 footprint, is giving them a wrong signal,” Graham told reporters Tuesday. “The best way to talk with the Taliban is ensure them you will defeat them on the battlefield, and they’re not assured of that.”
But President Obama feels the time is right to begin all elements of the withdrawal process, including attempts at peaceful resolutions with the Taliban, which will not be “easy or quick.”
Republicans and some US military generals claim that turning Taliban members toward the light of peace will not be possible, but that has already been proven untrue by former Taliban members, who were tired of the bloodshed, defected to Afghan security forces and made efforts to rebuild their former lives.
One such member, Abdul Mohammed was a foot soldier with the Helmand Taliban after leaving his family to fight an evil-warlord dictator, who was later replaced by British troops as the war escalated in 2008.
Abdul gave an interview that was published in The Telegraph March 8, 2010, in which he told how the Taliban training consisted of being given an AK-47 military assault weapon and being thoroughly conditioned to die.
“I expected to be killed in battle [every day] – but that didn’t worry me,” he said. “I never thought about death. If I was told go on a suicide attack, I would have done so. I was a committed Taliban fighter, being with the Taliban was my life.”
The Taliban told their converts numerous lies about the enemy combatants they sought to kill, including how they would be forbidden to practice their Muslim faith if they lost the war. But Abdul slowly began to see through the lies as he watched US and allied soldiers help people in villages to build schools and mosques.
So, after two years of watching his friends and family members die in battle, Abdul left the insurgency and joined the NATO “reintegration” process. He yearned to go back to the simple way of life he had before the war, which was working a small farm with his wife and son, hoping his boy might go to school one day to be educated as an engineer.
The story of Abdul Mohammed, who said many others wanted to return to their old lives and stop the killing, may not be indicative of how easily “reconciliation” may happen in Afghanistan, but it certainly shows there is reasonable foundation for starting the process.
Reportedly, NATO’s forces will remain in Afghanistan for the next 18 months in a supporting role as Afghan forces get up to speed on handling their own security by the end of 2014.
As the G-8 summit winds down, President Obama continues his vow to “turn the page in the US war on terror” in a supporting role during peace talks with the Taliban but simultaneously the White House has been drawn more deeply into the Syrian civil conflict as it moves toward arming opposition rebels.