Talking may not be easy

Boston Herald

Pakistan’s offer to mediate with the Pakistani Taliban — presumably with the United States and the Afghan government on the other side — is a dangerous gambit that should be pursued only under strict conditions.

Without a peace agreement, fighting the Taliban must continue in full vigor. Under any agreement, the Taliban cannot resume the barbarism that plunged Afghanistan into a reign of terror during Taliban control in the 1990s. And the Taliban would have to break with al-Qaeda, its longtime terrorist partner.

Taliban elements fled to northwest Pakistan, long a no-go area for the Islamabad government, after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. They have used the area as a sanctuary. The Pakistani army has fought Taliban units from time to time, and has been under pressure from the United States to do more. Even though Pakistan cooperates in U.S. drone aircraft missile attacks, Pakistan sometimes cooperates with the Taliban, too, seeing it as a tool of influence in Afghanistan and a counter to Indian influence there.

No American administration can accept anything like the Taliban’s previous reign of terror in Afghanistan, which kept girls and young women out of school, enforced the cruelties of Sharia law and blew up monuments of ancient non-Muslim cultures.

No American administration can afford to be seen refusing an attempt to reconcile enemies either, something the Afghan government wants to arrange. It is hard for Americans to fight people with whom they are negotiating. The bombing pauses in Vietnam conveyed a message that our side was not interested in winning.

U.S. desire for a quick exit is said to have prompted Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, head of the Pakistani army, to make his mediation offer. If it fails, perhaps he will fight harder.

The above editorial was originally published Feb. 14 by the Boston Herald. Content was made available by