Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta has said that those beating the drums of negotiations with anti-government elements and insurgents are the "messengers of surrender, admitting defeat."
While addressing a three-day seminar in the Foreign Ministry, he ruled out any sort of negotiations with armed groups if they do not first lay down their arms. Criticizing some "foreign countries," without mentioning any particular names, he said "if foreign countries who have come to help us want to hand over Afghanistan to armed enemies, then it's better they leave our country."
The statement is confusing as reported talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are currently hitting the headlines. However, the Foreign Minister hits the bull's eye: ruling out negotiations made on the insurgents' terms and even suggesting foreign troop withdrawal - that is the appropriate response. Spanta has also correctly stated that there should be "no talks before they [the terrorists] lay down their arms."
The Minister continued, "some [foreign countries] are stuck in the ravine, [and] term their defeat, the world's defeat." A Kabul Dari newspaper said the Minister's statement actually targets Britain, criticizing the British commander who said we should not expect victory in the war against the Taliban.
This strong criticism comes in the wake of increasing support for negotiations with the Taliban, which Robert Gates, US Secretary of Defense, has supported. However, other NATO allies are more skeptical. German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung has already expressed doubts that talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban could bring stability to Afghanistan.
I believe the Afghan government should negotiate with the insurgents, but only if key conditions are met: The insurgents must lay down their arms, accept the government's writ, and show a willingness to join the democratic political process. If these conditions are not met, negotiations would be futile.
Reports have revealed that the Afghan government, with the diplomatic support of Britain and Saudi Arabia, is having talks with the Taliban. Karzai's elder brother is representing the government. Reports said former Taliban ambassador to Islamabad, Mullah Sallam Zaif, former Taliban foreign minister, Mullah Mutawakil, and a delegation of Gulbadin Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami were also present in the meeting held in Riyadh. On the other hand, different government circles and foreign allies have also been talking about arming local militias to fight the Taliban, which some political groups in Kabul strongly criticize saying it would start a new civil war in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have already ruled out productive talks if their terms - including the withdrawal of foreign troops - are not met. Despite Taliban engagement in on-going negotiations, terrorists have killed 31 bus passengers, beheading 7 of them last week. Conceding to parley with the Taliban would further boost their confidence.
The United States and NATO allies must win the war in Afghanistan. An exit strategy would merely recreate the aftershocks of the Soviet troop withdrawal - another civil war and a rise in international terrorism.
To win in Afghanistan, as Ahmed Rashid said in a recent interview, regional powers - China, Russia and India - should play a vital role, even military, should it turn out to be the only solution. Russian Ambassador to Kabul, Mr. Kabulov, talking to the International Herald Tribune, has said, "Moscow supported the 2001 invasion as part of an international coalition against terrorism that was as much a threat to the security of Russia." He also refuted the suggestion that Russia hopes for America's defeat in Afghanistan: "Why should we be jubilant at the prospect of the Americans being defeated by a people who will take us on again, as they did in the 1990s in Chechnya?"
Kabulov is right to say that Islamic terrorists have the same outlook towards Russia, China, India and others as they do towards the United States. It's high time to involve regional powers in the war in Afghanistan to prevent history from repeating itself.
Related materials from the Atlantic Community:
- HOT ISSUE: How to Keep NATO Relevant?
- Morgan Sheeran: Afghan Surge: More Police Trainers Essential
- Julianne Smith: Europe Can Help in Afghanistan with More than Just Troops