Is the Taliban a Partner or a Foe or Something In Between?

U.S. representatives met for direct talks with senior Taliban rulers last weekend for the first time since the disastrous U.S. exit from Afghanistan in August while maintaining its position not to provide political recognition to the terrorist organization. The country faces a severe economic and humanitarian crisis, and the European Union has likewise stepped in with an offer of $1.15 billion in aid “to avert a major humanitarian and socio-economic collapse in Afghanistan.” The United States and other Western governments continue to grapple with the challenge of propping up the new government while seeking to withhold credibility from Taliban leaders. 

The Taliban stated that the talks “went well” and included an agreement from Washington for needed humanitarian aid. State Department representative Ned Price regarded the discussions as “candid and professional,” focused largely on terrorism and security concerns that include the safe passage of Americans and allies from Afghanistan. Price concluded his statement with the reiteration “that the Taliban will be judged on its actions, not only its words.”

Regarding the encroaching threat of terrorism from other groups within the region, the Taliban has made it clear that they will not engage the United States for help in combatting Isis. A Taliban spokesperson told the AP last week, “We are able to tackle Daesh independently,” even as IS claimed responsibility for the suicide attack that claimed 46 lives in a Shiite mosque just the day before. The United States cannot count the Taliban as a reliable partner in fighting extremism in the region, nor should they. 

The Taliban further remains an organization that serves its own interests and fails to regard humanitarian concerns distinct to Western values. Despite Washington’s offer of needed humanitarian assistance, the Taliban is unlikely to act in a way that aligns with U.S. priorities. In a piece from the Washington Free Beacon this week, writer Adam Kredo notes that “Nearly half of the Taliban government’s leaders are on the United Nations’ terrorist blacklist.” The Taliban’s interior minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, holds a place on the FBI’s Most Wanted List and is wanted for his role in a 2008 attack on a hotel in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed an American citizen and five other people. Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute in D.C. suggests that “If past is precedent, Biden’s team is more likely to reclassify whom they consider terrorists in order to justify their policy going forward.” 

To expect the Taliban to act as a trustworthy counterpart of any kind in official discussions is folly. And it’s downright dangerous.

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Aly is a military spouse and mom to two. She has a special interest in international security and foreign affairs, having lived overseas, worked with Sister Cities International and served as a commissioning editor for an international relations website. Aly holds a Masters in Global Studies and International Relations from Northeastern University and currently resides in Tennessee.
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2 thoughts on “Is the Taliban a Partner or a Foe or Something In Between?”

  1. The position the US is taking with the Taliban is reminiscent of the folly of Chamberlain. We supposedly will not negotiate with terrorists. Yet, is that not what we are doing now? Do we really expect to see the scorpion stop being a scorpion?
    As long as the Taliban truly believe everyone is an infiedel who does not follow their religion and as such truly must follow or die, that it is acceptable to lie to anyone who is an infidel, that there is great reward in the afterlife if one dies in battle for the sake of their god, all our negotiations will no long lastng effect.