By Tim Foxley
Summary: Worry indications of growing tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan
2 May 2013: …a dispute over a border post grew into a firefight Wednesday night, causing deaths on both sides. The overnight clash between the U.S.-funded and U.S.-advised Afghan security forces and troops from nuclear-armed Pakistan brings a dangerous new complication to American efforts to wind down the Afghan war. Thursday’s fighting followed weeks of complaints from Kabul about the new border outposts, which were erected by Pakistan across from the Goshta district of eastern Nangarhar province. The British-drawn boundary between the two countries is disputed by Afghanistan, which doesn’t recognize as an international frontier the so-called Durand Line that cuts through the ethnic Pashtun heartland. The line is also not properly demarcated and, while the Pakistani government says the new fortifications are on its side of the border, Afghan officials claim that they are as much as 30 km inside Afghan territory. U.S. military maps also show that the disputed outpost lies on the Afghan side of the Durand Line, officials say.
Apparently it was declared “resolved” earlier:
15 April 2013: ISLAMABAD — Pakistan says it has “amicably resolved” a dispute with Afghanistan over the construction of a controversial border gate, the latest in a series of incidents straining an already fragile bilateral relationship that many consider vital to promoting the Afghan peace process.
In addition to a growing war of words between the two countries, military tension has also been evident. What makes the dispute more complex (and perhaps inevitable) is that the Durrand Line, although notionally acting as the formal border between the countries is not recognised by Afghanistan or accurately marked out. I also understood that, during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, Pakistan effectively moved many of its border posts back into Pakistani territory (sometimes by kilometres) to avoid clashing with the Soviet Army. Nowadays, insurgent groups such as the Taliban, HIG, LeT etc are bouncing across it more or less at will. The US has accused Pakistani border guards of collusion with these group. So much ambiguity, not to mention some recent history of past offences.
Analysis and Outlook
This has the character of a playground dispute (which will be of no comfort to anyone caught in the middle) probably brought on by wider strategic issues. Accurate information (who did what to whom) will not be easily accessible in this part of the world – government spokesmen will trade barbs and call on the other to stop provocations and a slightly less impartial organisation – like ISAF in this case – is increasingly winding down its presence and actions on the peripheries.
I am not clear whether the border clashes are the cause of the tensions themselves or the symptoms of wider issues. I suspect the latter. The most recent clashes seem connected to reports of the Pakistani military attempting to build, rebuild or strengthen border positions. Theoretically this might allow a better control over who crosses between the countries, perhaps enhancing security over a very porous border. But if the border demarcation is not agreed by either side (the Pushtun tribal region straddles this line) and two nations are not liaising or coordinating coherently (or at all) this could clearly lead to perceptions of encroachment and even territorial ambitions.
Now that the Afghans have a big army, perhaps they feel a little less insecure about a more muscular assertion of the “sovereignty” that Hamid Karzai seems so concerned with these days. The wider strategic issues fuelling suspicions are the overall uncertainty besetting the region with ISAF withdrawal and a significant insurgency ongoing. More particularly, the desire for talks with the Taliban and standard accusations from the US and the Afghan government that the Pakistani regime is more concerned with maintaining support and control over the Taliban than genuinely pushing them into credible dialogue. A view that I still struggle to find fault with.
Future clashes are likely as part of this “ebb and flow” of the strategic dialogue – “posturing” is the word. A rocket strike here and there might be ignorable, but pitched battles and casualties amongst ground forces of the respective countries would elevate this into a bigger problem amidst an area that already has more problems than it can cope with…
By Tim Foxley
Summary: Bags of cash from the CIA to Karzai, although not demonstrative of good and stable governance merely illustrate an old practise in Afghanistan. Many other actors will be buying influence in this way and not just with the central government part of Afghanistan…
Stories breaking about the secret (well, secret up to last week, it would appear) payments of cash being made by the CIA to Karzai and his government. I am merely struggling to understand why people seem to be surprised by this. You may recall a while back when the story broke in relation to Iran making payments to the Afghan government:
Hamid Karzai has admitted that his chief of staff collects “bags of money”, containing hundreds of thousands of euros, from the Iranian government each year.
The Afghan president told a press conference that the cash was used to pay his office expenses and that he was happy to take large sums from Iran, Afghanistan‘s most important ally and the main regional enemy of the US.
“This is nothing hidden,” Karzai said. “We are grateful for Iranian help in this regard. The United States is doing the same thing. They’re providing cash to some of our offices.”
He said that once or twice a year Iran provided as much as €700,000 (£625,000) and that the money was handled by Umar Daudzai, the powerful chief of staff who is known for his anti-western views.
Not, it is not good, but this is the way it is done. Hopkirk’s “The Great Game” noted the tendency of tribal leaders in the 19th century to sever the heads of colonial messengers moving from Indoa through to Kabul if their stipends (bribes to allow free passage) were cut back. Boxloads of dollars were unloaded to warlords in 2001 to secure the fall of the Taliban. It gets right to the heart of the “take a principled stance and not achieve anything, or make some messy compromises” debate. Perhaps when Afghanistan has a competent and non-corrupt system, the money can be pushed in via more official means.
Political and cultural historian, Thomas Barfield, suggested that the successful Afghan rulers were the ones who were able to play off the international community and secure funds from all of them.
You can bet India, Russia, the Central Asian States, Pakistan and China are doing the same kind of thing, perhaps with slight variations. And it won’t just be to Karzai – what about all the key regional, ethnic and political factions and leaders? Everyone is pumping money into Afghanistan, with varying levels of conditionality attached. Why should CIA be any different?
Oh – lets see what the Taliban spokesman has to say about this!
By Tim Foxley
Summary: Standard Taliban annual announcement of a Spring Offensive, very similar to last year.
The Taliban officially announced the commencement of what they described as the 2013 Spring Offensive. The 814-word statement introduced the “title” of this year’s operation as “Khalid bin Waleed”, a powerful Islamic general under Mohammed, also known as “the Drawn Sword of God”, giving the imagery of battles and conquest. The Taliban promise “special military tactics”, insider attacks and suicide bombers. Once again stressing the importance of its fighters avoiding civilian casualties where possible, Afghans were warned to stay away from foreign military and political bases and employees of the Afghan government were called upon to leave the regime and join the ranks of the Taliban. The statement drew attention to a Taliban “Recruitment Commision” that would protect regime defectors and called upon religious, tribal and societal figures to stop Afghans joining military programmes such as the Afghan army and the militias.
Analysis and Outlook
The statement is very similar in length, style and tone to last year’s. The Taliban have been formally announcing their spring offensives since 2008. The validity and accuracy of the term has been disputed, but it is generally seen to refer to the slow increase in fighting that begins once the winter snows have melted, thus allowing more freedom of movement for fighters. The trend of fighting increases through the summer, before starting to decline again in approximately October/November. Many have argued that the Taliban’s increase in combat activity does not, by any stretch of the imagination, represent an “offensive”.
I have a lot of sympathy with the views of this US commander in 2008:
There is no such thing as a spring offensive”, Colonel Pete Johnson, the commander of a taskforce from the 101st Airborne Division…told Reuters. “I think this year this myth is finally going to be debunked. Last year was the same thing – it never materialised. This year it has not materialised and it won’t materialise.”
“Will there be increases in fighting and insurgent activity. Absolutely. But it’s a weather-based construct, a seasonal construct, not a deliberate execution of an offensive. Increased activity is not a coordinated offensive.”
I sense that the Taliban have gradually dragged the term into their jihadist lexicon because som amy western analysts and hournalists kept going on about it in the 2004 – 2008 period. The Taliban did not ignore this gift of a propaganda opportunity. It is unwise to totlly dismiss the Taliban’s claims to an “offensive”, as they do realise they have to launch a few attacks just to maintain credibility. We should generally expect to see a handful of higher profile “complex” attacks aimed at political/military targets in Kabul, an ISAF military base or PRT in the provinces – Bagram, Helmand, Nangarhar. Afghan security forces are hihgly likely to be targeted: ISAF is much less visible and the Afghan targets are less professionally procted than their ISAF counterparts. If there is a risk, it is in the possible “window of opportunty” imbalances in security as a result of the ISAF withdrawal – perhaps a PRT or outpost is now actually more vulnerable than it was? The Taloban have demonstrated some skill in combing groups to concentrate on small and isolated targets.
On wider issues, I also sense that the Taliban have reached a plateau in their political and military imagination, both generally, and in their propaganda in particular. There appears little in the way of creativity or proactive shift in communication direction, merely an ability to make use of modern tools of communication. Maybe it is too much to expect nuance and creativity from a Spring Offensive statement, but this statement now has the feel of an annual “template”. There is no political component here, no recognition that dynamics within the country are shifting as the ISAF withdrawal proceeds. There is nothing beyond urging individual regime members to defect. Does this suggest that the military faction still hold sway within the leadershhip? The lack of imagination in their messages after many years of improving actually strikes me as surprising.
In fact, they may even have had to back away a little in these statements as a result of over-confidence in earlier years: in 2009 and 2010 respectively, their Spring Offensives were entitled “Nasrat” (Victory) and “Al-Faath” (Success). And in January last year, they issued a “Formal proclamation of Islamic victory”. Have they perhaps at least understood that they might be premature in their announcements and that there are inherent contradictions and credibility issues in declaring victory every year?
I think the Taliban “lack of imagination” argument probably fits the bill here. But, as a parting analytical “long shot”, the “default setting” tone of the announcement could also be interpreted in a very different way. What if the Taliban were expecting political changes this year – ie changes that they were planning to initiate? They might therefore calculate that the annual announcement of Spring operations to which they are now more or less committed (it would be more noteworthy if the Taliban had called off the statement) needs to be made, but kept as bland as possible to keep the troops focused (“business as usual, fight the infidel”), but also to avoid giving anything away…
Finally, the Western intelligence agencies seem to still find the Taliban announcements so much of a threat that they need to be countered: it is surely no coincidence that the Taliban website was taken off-line at the same time the announcement was made?
By Tim Foxley
Summary: New York Times report on some very frank and pessimistic thoughts from a departing French diplomat
I thought, rather than merely tweeting this forward, it deserves a proper read. Easy to speak out (and not much help, more to the point) when you have moved on. It reminds me of the former British Ambassador, Sir Sherard Cowper Coles, who would have us believe that he resigned in frustration. His book emerged shortly afterwards, heavy with criticism of the (mainly US) strategy. The views here appear to be echoed by many others. The “perfect storm” metaphor is also both striking and worrying. How, after all this effort, did we end up here…? Wonder what Anders Fogh Rasmussen will have to say when he moves on…?
By Alissa Rubin
KABUL, Afghanistan — It is always hard to gauge what diplomats really think unless one of their cables ends up on WikiLeaks, but every once in a while, the barriers fall and a bit of truth slips into public view.
That is especially true in Afghanistan, where diplomats painstakingly weigh every word against political goals back home.
The positive spin from the Americans has been running especially hard the last few weeks, as Congressional committees in Washington focus on spending bills and the Obama administration, trying to secure money for a few more years here, talks up the country’s progress. The same is going on at the European Union, where the tone has been sterner than in the past, but still glosses predictions of Afghanistan’s future with upbeat words like “promise” and “potential.”
Despite that, one of those rare truth-telling moments came at a farewell cocktail party last week hosted by the departing French ambassador to Kabul: Bernard Bajolet, who is leaving to head France’s Direction Génerale de la Sécurité Extérieure, its foreign intelligence service. After the white-coated staff passed the third round of hors d’oeuvres, Mr. Bajolet took the lectern and laid out a picture of how France — a country plagued by a slow economy, waning public support for the Afghan endeavor and demands from other foreign conflicts, including Syria and North Africa — looked at Afghanistan. While it is certainly easier for France to be a critic from the sidelines than countries whose troops are still fighting in Afghanistan, the country can claim to have done its part. It lost more troops than all but three other countries before withdrawing its last combat forces in the fall.
The room, filled with diplomats, some senior soldiers and a number of Afghan dignitaries, went deadly quiet. When Mr. Bajolet finished, there was restrained applause — and sober expressions. One diplomat raised his eyebrows and nodded slightly; another said, “No holding back there.” So what did he say? That the Afghan project is on thin ice and that, collectively, the West was responsible for a chunk of what went wrong, though much of the rest the Afghans were responsible for. That the West had done a good job of fighting terrorism, but that most of that was done on Pakistani soil, not on the Afghan side of the border. And that without fundamental changes in how Afghanistan did business, the Afghan government, and by extension the West’s investment in it, would come to little. His tone was neither shrill nor reproachful. It was matter-of-fact. “I still cannot understand how we, the international community, and the Afghan government have managed to arrive at a situation in which everything is coming together in 2014 — elections, new president, economic transition, military transition and all this — whereas the negotiations for the peace process have not really started,” Mr. Bajolet said in his opening comments. He was echoing a point shared privately by other diplomats, that 2014 was likely to be “a perfect storm” of political and military upheaval coinciding with the formal close of the NATO combat mission in Afghanistan.
As for the success of the fight on the ground, which American leaders routinely describe now as being “Afghan-led,” Mr. Bajolet sounded dubious. “We do not have enough distance to make an objective assessment,” he said, “but in any case, I think it crucial that the Afghan highest leadership take more visible and obvious ownership for their army.” His tone — the sober, troubled observations of a diplomat closing a chapter — could hardly have been more different from that taken by the new shift of American officials charged with making it work in Afghanistan: in particular, with that of Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the new American commanding general here. This week, General Dunford sent out a news release cheering on Afghanistan’s progress, noting some positive-leaning statistics and praising the Afghan Army’s abilities. “Very soon, the A.N.S.F. will be responsible for security nationwide” General Dunford said, referring to the Afghan National Security Forces. “They are steadily gaining in confidence, competence, and commitment.”
At his farewell party, Mr. Bajolet wound up his realpolitik with a brisk analysis of what Afghanistan’s government needed to do: cut corruption, which discourages investment, deal with drugs and become fiscally self-reliant. It must increase its revenues instead of letting politicians divert them, he said. Several diplomats in the room could be seen nodding as he said that drugs caused “more casualties than terrorism” in Russia, Europe and the Balkans and that Western governments would be hard-put to make the case for continued spending on Afghanistan if it remains the world’s largest heroin supplier.
The biggest contrast with the American and British line was Mr. Bajolet’s riff on sovereignty, which has become the political watchword of the moment. The Americans and the international community are giving sovereignty back to Afghanistan. Afghanistan argues frequently that it is a sovereign nation. President Hamid Karzai, in the debate over taking charge of the Bagram prison, repeatedly said that Afghanistan had a sovereign responsibility to its prisoners. His implicit question was, what does that really mean? “We should be lucid: a country that depends almost entirely on the international community for the salaries of its soldiers and policemen, for most of its investments and partly on it for its current civil expenditure, cannot be really independent.”
By Tim Foxley
Summary: The Spring Offensive announcement is an annual set-piece propaganda creation from the Taliban which gives clues as to their military intent for the year. It should be due soon.
In a larger piece about how much damage the Taliban managed to inflict upon the Afghan government and international forces in March, the Taliban commented briefly upon this year’s “Spring Offensive”:
“As the spring season has set in, the trenches of Jihad once again became warm. Last year, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan started the spring operations with name of ‘Al-Farooq’ which had substantial achievements. Though the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has not assigned any name to its fresh spring season operation, still heavy financial and corporeal losses have been inflicted on the crusade invaders and their mercenaries as the weather is becoming warm day by day.”
It has been customary for a few years now, for the Taliban to assign a name to the increase in combat activities permitted by the improvement in weather after winter that many now call the “Spring Offensive”. This happens somewhere at the end of April and the beginning of May. The term “Spring Offensive” itself has been a source of debate – some have seen it as a myth in the sense that a slow increase in activities from Spring to summer doesn’t justify the term in a real military sense. I felt that the Taliban adopted the term having noted that the international media and ISAF were using it when describing likely Taliban actions and decided to make it their own. Perhaps a minor propaganda victory gifted to the Taliban. The name of the Spring Offensive, which changes each year, has generally been associated with a significant event in Islamic history, like a military victory. I wrote about the 2012 announcement here and 2011 here (Taleban announce Spring Operations, 3 May 11). It is helpful to analyse variations in tone, style, content and length.
I have been expecting some form of official statement to introduce the new operation to come soon. It normally comes with a set of exhortations to the jihadis, with a list of “viable targets” for them to attack. In 2012, the key points were thus:
- the pre-amble recalls the struggle thus far against the “foreign invaders”,
- it then explains the choice of al Farooq as the name for 2012’s operations,
- it identifies targets and timings for this year’s offensive
- finally, it appeals to “all those associated with the puppet administration” to change sides
I still think this announcement will come. But in this statement, it seems to imply a decision not to assign a name to the operation. This would be a minor surprise and I am not really sure why this has happened. Perhaps the Taliban felt that there was limited propaganda value in the process (although I don’t think their ability to critically appraise their propaganda efforts are particularly strong). Perhaps they concluded that it diminished the idea of the “all-year round efforts” of their fighters, that they would like to draw attention to the notion that the insurgency makes no distinction between the seasons in terms of its desire to take the fight to the enemy. It might be simply that they have not yet decided upon a name for their Spring 2013 fighting season.
But it would be a departure for them not to declare an offensive at all. The dynamics of this year’s fighting might be significantly different – ISAF mainly confined to base and the bulk of the fghting now between Muslims. The New York Times notes that ISAF is no longer planning to give out combat statistics, but ANSO, an organisation in Afghanistan concerned wth the safety and security of NGOs operating in the country, reportedly notes that the first quarter of 2013 has seen an increase of 47% on the same period last year:
There were 2,331 attacks by armed opposition groups in the first quarter, compared with 1,581 in the same period last year, an increase of 47 percent, the statistics show.
“We assess that the current re-escalation trend will be preserved throughout the entire season and that 2013 is set to become the second most violent year after 2011,” said Tomas Muzik, the director of the NGO office.
One of my well-worn themes – this year, information will be harder to come by.
By Tim Foxley
Summary: Another poorly thought-through and near-spontaneous Taliban announcement on civilian casualties strongly demonstrates the limitations of their media machine.
The Taliban have posted another statement related to civilian casualties in Afghanistan. It comprises a short list of alleged civilian casualties caused by Afghan government and international forces from 2008 to 2013. It states that the Taliban are doing their best to keep casualties to a minimum and accuses the international forces of planting most of the roadside bombs.
The Islamic Emirate which is fighting to terminate the occupation, establish an Islamic system of life and restore peace and security for the masses, is committed more than anyone else to the Islamic rules and regulations and human values. Therefore it has launched its best efforts to prevent the civilian casualties. Everyone knows that the invaders and their allies are neither committed to the human values nor they abide by any law; they do whatever they want to; because there is none to hold them responsible. They do not care for anyone to reach their malicious goals. They commit every felony for the interest of their people. They kill the civilians, imprison them, demolish their houses and force them out from their homes and villages.
This is not a mere allegation; in the previous 11 years there are hundreds rather thousands instances which prove their anti humanity felonies. In the following we are reminding just a few of them:
In July 2008, the invaders bombed a wedding procession in Aoughaz area of Haska-Maian, in which 48 civilians, mostly children and women including the bride, were martyred. Two days prior to this incident, 22 civilians were martyred in Nooristan province in the invaders’ bombing.
In August 2008, one hundred and ten (110) civilians, mostly women and children, were martyred by the invaders’ bombing in Aziz-Abad village of Shindand district in Herat province.
In August 2009, an oil tanker, surrounded by the people, was bombed in Kunduz province, in which 150 civilians were martyred. In the same province, in November 2012, the Arbakis (a local tribal militia) martyred 10 civilians in the ruthless firing and injured 7 more.
In 2009, the invaders bombed the Grana village of Bala-Boluk district in Farah province and martyred more than 140 civilians in which 93 persons were below 18 years boys and girls; 25 were women and the remaining were ordinary aged people.
In February 2011, sixty five (65) civilians were bombed and martyred in Ghazi-Abad district of Kunar province. Similarly, in March 2011, nine (9) children, who had gone to the hill to collect woods in Pach valley of Kunar province, were bombed by the occupiers.
In March 2012, the bloody incident of Zang-Abad in Panjwai district of Kandahar province shocked the whole world. In June 2012, seventeen (17) civilians, mostly children and women including the bride, were martyred when a wedding procession was bombed in Sajawand area of Logar province.
Last year, in Urzgan province, an Arbaki commander named Shujaee, killed 17 civilians by shooting them in one day. Overall he has killed 120 ordinary people. This criminal is instigated by the invaders for this kind of felonies. He is fully supported by them therefore when he was arrested, he got released.
In January 2013, eighteen (18) civilians were martyred in bombing of a mosque and village in Tangi valley in Wardak province. And lo! Once again more than 20 persons including 12 children were immersed in blood in brutally bombing the civilian houses in Shaigal valley of Kunar province. Simultaneously they blew up a civilian transport bus by landmine in Salar area of Wardak province to conceal their transgression in which more than 30 people were either killed or wounded.
These were just a handful out of a heap, otherwise everyone knows better that the invaders and their stooges have ruthlessly killed tens of thousands civilians in the illegitimate war imposed over Afghan nation. Thousands have been imprisoned and tens of thousands have been made homeless.
It is worth mentioning that most of the roadside mines are planted by the invaders themselves just to vilify Mujahidin and then intentionally blow them up on the civilians. The enemy, who is on the verge of a historical defeat, wants to decrease the sympathy and support of masses with Mujahidin in this way. But, by the grace of Allah Almighty, the cautious and courageous Afghan nation understands everything well. Therefore the level of sympathy and support with Mujahidin against the enemy is rapidly growing and spreading day by day.
Analysis and Outlook
If there is one aspect of the media war that the Taliban appear to be increasingly struggling with, it is the issue of civilian casualties. One might even say they recognise that they might be losing this part of the propaganda war. This message is curious – it is a short list (I could certainly do a much better job of detailing civilian casualties caused by ISAF) and only begins in 2008. On 9th April, the Taliban also posted an article on their website that intended to justify the 3rd April attack on the Farah courthouse that killed dozens of civilians. The messages demonstrate the limitations of the evolution of their messaging capabilities – they can’t reference any evidence and they overload their communiques with denial, denouncement and deflection, rather than other more coherent or thoughtful approaches – for example genuine appeals to cooperate with, eg, Red Cross or UN to monitor and investigate, which they might have done if they genuinely felt they were being accused of things that they hadn’t done. Their language carries a clear subtext of exasperation “why can’t people understand we are doing this for a good cause?”
What they do not seem able to acknowledge or understand is that when ISAF drops a bomb in the wrong place, it is very often acknowledged, apologised for and investigated. The Taliban don’t seem to have an answer to this approach – we don’t make mistakes and we don’t apologise for mistakes
The Taliban do not yet appear to recognise that a messaging policy of ill thought-through and near-spontaneous denial and counter-accusation is a limited and unconvincing approach. But, even if they do recognise this, they haven’t worked out what to do about it.
But this could be important for Afghanistan. If the Taliban got into the business of admitting mistakes, investigating, apologising, compensating, if they started liaising with eg UN, Red Cross and other recognised Afghan or international institutions on the welfare of civilians they might improve their media image. And they might start realising that some of their more extreme actions were working against them. Then, they might actually slowly have moved towards a more coherent, approachable and, crucially, politically-recognisable movement.
“One really has to wonder why TB doesn’t concentrate on getting act together, trying to present a more cohesive front…” (comment by
@SuzanneSues57) I said I would comment…
I don’t think the Taliban are willing or able to understand the implications or the urgency. But, to be fair, nor is the Afghan government, for that matter, even just going by Ruttig and Rashid’s frustrated observations yesterday. I am starting to form the view that both sides (Afg govt and Afg TB) will drift by default into continuing the fight after 2014 – the government has a shiny new army which it might want to fight with first, before decisions about talks are made. And the Taliban are still in the fight – even though large scale operations look beyond them. From their perspective they have seen off a 40+ nation international army.
In terms of “act” and getting it together, the Taliban do suffer from poor command and control, across two countries, together with some justifiable paranoia about the risks of arrest etc by ISI. Not to mention what seems to be a significant divide between “talkers” and “fighters” in the leadership. And perhaps even raising the issue of talks within the fervent atmosphere of “jihad”, can be a divisive and difficult thing to do from Quetta.
Finally, I don’t think the Taliban yet really know what they want. But does the US or Karzai? I sense that realism and prgamatism are currently in short supply in this part of the world. I really liked the expression that Ahmed Rashid used at the conference: “lets open the minds of the Taliban”, because it fits exactly in line with the paper I am currently writing on the use of messaging. My DIIS contribution to their paper was a briefer flavour of some of these ideas. In terms of the media environment, somewhere between the poisonous and damaging propaganda war and useful/credible talks there is a whole unexplored area that involves engaging with the Taliban on political, social and economic themes that might guide, shape, coax and encourage them to understand some of the realities of the modern world. If they have a better political mindset and understanding before they go into talks, perhaps the result might be more sustainable.
What do you reckon?