Don't jump the gun on Afghan pullout: US expert
Washington: Instead of diving into a "pseudo" reconciliation process to justify an early pullout of troops from Afghanistan, the Obama administration must pay attention on the fact that Taliban will use any negotiations to strengthen their hold in the country, an eminent US expert has said.
The building blocks for genuine peace and stability in Afghanistan are simply not yet in place, said Lisa Curtis of the Heritage Foundation.
"The recent leaked NATO report, combined with findings from a recent intelligence estimate on Afghanistan that conclude the Taliban have little interest in peace talks, should cause the Obama administration to think twice when considering concessions to the Taliban," said Curtis.
These reports reveal that the situation is not yet ripe for genuine reconciliation, and the administration would be jumping the gun if it releases senior Taliban prisoners at this juncture, she said.
"US intelligence officials acknowledged in congressional hearings yesterday that the US may release five top Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay as an incentive to bring the Taliban leadership to talks," Curtis said.
In a secret NATO report recently leaked to the British media, Taliban insurgents told their interrogators that they are increasingly confident that the Taliban will retake power once NATO forces depart Afghanistan, and that Pakistan is positioning itself for such an outcome, she said.
NATO officials have sought to downplay the report's contents, emphasising that it represents uncorroborated pieces of information, not an overall analysis of the military situation.
"Still, the contents of the report should give pause to those who are pushing for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban.”
"There are well-founded concerns that the Taliban are uninterested in genuine peace talks and will try to string the US along in talks that would simply allow them to play for time and obtain release of their prisoners," Curtis said.
"The US must guard against the possibility that the Taliban will use any negotiations to strengthen their influence in Afghanistan without breaking ties to international terrorist groups or giving up their goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate," she said.
"Although Pakistan claims it is not interfering in Afghanistan's affairs, there have been no indications that Pakistan has cracked down on Taliban sanctuaries on its side of the border," Curtis said.