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A Vietnam "Solution" to the Afghanistan War?

July 2, 2018 in Economics

By John Mueller

John Mueller

It was in 2010 that United States President Barack Obama
told an interviewer that he could easily
imagine a situation in which “we ended up staying in Afghanistan
for another five years, another eight years, another ten years. And
we would do it not with clear intentions but rather just out of an
inertia.”

Last year, well into that decade of inertial guidance, President
Donald Trump, although noting that his “original instinct was
to pull out,” authorized an increase of a few thousand
American troops to the war in Afghanistan. It was, he said , “a plan for victory.”
However, he then defined “victory” as something more
akin to a stalemate—preventing the Taliban from taking over
and then perhaps negotiating “a political
settlement.”

Earlier this month, a brief three-day ceasefire took place, and
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has said he is willing to negotiate with the
Taliban at any time and in any place. However, the Taliban has repeatedly said it wants to talk with the
United States directly and that an American military withdrawal has
to be a primary, up-front part of the deal.

There is, as it happens, a precedent for this condition.

It happened in the January 1973 agreement in Vietnam between the
United States and the Communists that settled the war there for a
while. It contained several elements that can be applied to the
present, essentially stalemated, situation in Afghanistan. These
situations are parallel as Afghan forces are incapable of being
able to seize, hold, and then coherently govern areas controlled by
the Taliban. Furthermore, substantial elements in the Taliban
recognize that a takeover of government strongholds, in particular,
the heavily-populated capital area of Kabul, is likely
impossible.

To begin with, however,
the United States needs to realize that it would have to negotiate
alone at least at the start and that a military withdrawal must, as
in Vietnam, be a key up-front component of any
agreement.

These elements include 1) a cease-fire in place, 2) withdrawal
of U.S. military forces, 3) continued resupply of the central
regime by the United States, and 4) an exchange of prisoners. For
instance, the Taliban has for years been particularly interested in getting the release of some aging
prisoners in Guantanamo. The United States might still retain a
considerable presence in the country, but any transfers of funds or
munitions would be handled by civilians and any training, or
private contractors would handle other military contributions.

As noted, the Taliban, while probably open to talks, wants only
to negotiate with the United States, not with …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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