Dealing with the Taliban to End the Afghanistan War

An alternative to troop escalation.

Right now in Afghanistan we're witnessing the worst violence since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001.  Over 4,000 people have been killed this year alone, nearly a third of which were civilians.  The Taliban grows stronger by the day, gaining local support with each misguided U.S. bombing that adds to the Afghani civilian death toll and each time NATO sets foot in the Kashmir region in pursuit of militants.  Clearly, the current strategy in Afghanistan -- eerily similar to the tactics the Bush administration has employed in Iraq for the last couple of years -- is not working.  Hopefully, President-elect Obama recognizes the vast differences between these two countries, which Noah Feldman highlighted in yesterday's NY Times.  And hopefully, Obama will not simply commit more troops to the region in an Iraq-style surge. 

Yes, Obama just announced Robert Gates will stay on as Defense Secretary.  Gates is well known as a hawkish Iraq war loyalist and a cheerleader of the failed strategy in Afghanistan.  His nomination for this position sparked a great deal of protest among liberals, particularly in the blogosphere.  But as British journalist Patrick Seale noted today, it was actually Gates who told al Jazeera back in October that the U.S. would be willing to negotiate with the Taliban in order to achieve peace. 

ZP Heller is the editorial director of Brave New Films. He has written for The American Prospect, AlterNet, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Huffington Post, covering everything from politics to pop culture.
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