Honor Holbrooke: ‘Stop This War in Afghanistan’

Robert Naiman

When a mem­ber of Con­gress dies, some­times oth­er mem­bers name a bill after him or her that advances some cause with which he or she iden­ti­fied. So, for exam­ple, we had the Edward M. Kennedy Serve Amer­i­ca Act” — Kennedy was a cham­pi­on of vol­un­teer service.

Are peace talks to end the war a pipe dream? Not according to many Afghanistan experts with decades of experience in the country.

This tra­di­tion has mul­ti­ple effects. Of course, it hon­ors the depart­ed. But, like the Span­ish hero El Cid, whose com­pan­ions suit­ed him up and placed him on his horse to dri­ve off their foes, it also gives the depart­ed one last ride into bat­tle. When you name some­thing the Our Esteemed Col­league Who Just Passed” Act, you’re lay­ing down a chal­lenge — don’t leave this one on the cut­ting room floor. And every­one gets to cheat death a lit­tle by giv­ing the depart­ed one last accom­plish­ment asso­ci­at­ed with that person’s name.

The uncom­plet­ed chal­lenge of Richard Holbrooke’s diplo­mat­ic career was a peace deal in Afghanistan. It was the hope of many that Hol­brooke would help bro­ker a peace deal, between the war­ring fac­tions in Afghanistan and between their region­al patrons, that would end the war. This hope was encour­aged by Holbrooke’s role in nego­ti­at­ing the 1995 Day­ton Accords that end­ed the war in Bosnia.

This unfin­ished busi­ness was appar­ent­ly very much on Holbrooke’s mind as he was being pre­pared for a surgery from which, pre­sum­ably, he had some inkling that he might not return.

You’ve got to stop this war in Afghanistan” Hol­brooke said, accord­ing to fam­i­ly members.

Are peace talks to end the war a pipe dream? Not accord­ing to many Afghanistan experts with decades of expe­ri­ence in the country.

In a let­ter to Pres­i­dent Oba­ma, the experts argue that with Pakistan’s active sup­port for the Tal­iban, it is not real­is­tic to bet on a mil­i­tary solu­tion, and that since the Taliban’s lead­er­ship has indi­cat­ed its will­ing­ness to nego­ti­ate, it is in our inter­est to talk to them.

The experts ask Pres­i­dent Oba­ma to sanc­tion and sup­port a direct dia­logue and nego­ti­a­tion with the Afghan Tal­iban lead­er­ship resid­ing in Pakistan.”

The sign­ers of the let­ter include peo­ple whose names one sees reg­u­lar­ly cit­ed as experts on Afghanistan in major US media: Ahmed Rashid, Gilles Dor­ronsoro, Ana­tol Lieven and Alex Strick van Lin­schoten. That they are experts with many years of expe­ri­ence in Afghanistan does not prove that they are right; it proves that their pro­pos­al deserves a fair hearing.

This week finds us at anoth­er fork in the road, as the admin­is­tra­tion reviews its Afghanistan pol­i­cy one year after the last major deci­sion to esca­late mil­i­tar­i­ly. The Pen­ta­gon has lob­bied hard for this review to not have any mean­ing­ful pol­i­cy con­se­quences; it would be a grave mis­take to allow the Pen­ta­gon to dic­tate this approach. The fail­ure of mil­i­tary esca­la­tion to pro­duce any mean­ing­ful pos­i­tive result should have the con­se­quence that the admin­is­tra­tion moves much more aggres­sive­ly to sup­port mean­ing­ful peace talks with the Afghan Tal­iban lead­er­ship and the Pak­istani mil­i­tary to end the war.

Suit Hol­brooke up in his armor and place him on his horse. We need real peace talks now.

This arti­cle orig­i­nal­ly appeared at Truth​-out​.org.

Robert Naiman is Pol­i­cy Direc­tor and Nation­al Coor­di­na­tor at Just For­eign Pol­i­cy. Naiman has worked as a pol­i­cy ana­lyst and researcher at the Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic and Pol­i­cy Research and Pub­lic Cit­i­zen’s Glob­al Trade Watch. He edits the Just For­eign Pol­i­cy dai­ly news sum­ma­ry and writes a blog on Huff­in­g­ton Post.
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