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Talks – nothing significant to report…

November 12, 2012

By Tim Foxley

Summary: A report suggests that “talks” (the definition of which remains as opaque as ever) are as far away as the post-2014 period.  That might be far too late.

Appearing to confirm what we already know, I came across this over the weekend.  The report suggests that attempts by the Afghan government to get talks going with the Taliban have, once again, come to nothing.  When we consider this angle to the “talks” story, it is worth bearing in mind that it is never really clear what the “plan” is for talks, for example:

  • who is to talk (I am still not sure whether the Americans or Afghans are “leading”),
  • who the “talkers” represent,
  • what is to be talked about,
  • what can be agreed upon,
  • what can be implemented
  • what can be enforced
  • what might the Afghan population actually want

I also suspect some groups/stakeholders like to believe they are driving matters and others unwittingly give the impression that they know what is going on when they do not – a lot of “smoke and mirrors” of intentional and unintentional varieties, if you will.  So we should be cautious before we get too stressed either way about the report.  However, I did find this comment a little concerning:

“No breakthrough is expected before the 2014 election,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Many key groups seem almost content to fall in the general – and very unhelpful – atmosphere of “wait and see” what happens after 2014.  This is valuable time being wasted and with absolutely no guarantee that the post-2014 political and security environments will have improved in any way (in fact, very plausibly, quite the reverse).  If you are about to fly off a cliff, you need to get the wings on the glider before you start dropping.  Or something.

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