State urges Taliban yet again to ‘run for office’

Just hours after the Taliban announced the launch of this year’s spring offensive, named the “Al Khandaq Jihadi operations,” the US Department of State issued a statement urging the Taliban to lay down its arms, conduct negotiations, and join Afghanistan’s election process. State’s repetitive call for the Taliban to make peace demonstrates an unthinkable fundamental misunderstanding of the Taliban and its goals some 16 years after the US first entered Afghanistan.

The Taliban has no intention of joining a political process and as it has stated numerous times, its goals are the expulsion of US and foreign forces, the overthrow of the Afghan government, the re-establishment of the of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the name of the Taliban’s government) and the imposition of its harsh brand of Sharia, or Islamic law. Yet, US officials across three administrations have either failed to recognize those intentions or are low on options with their incessant push for the Taliban to negotiate.

The statement, attributed to Acting Secretary of State John J. Sullivan, is reproduced in full below. The last paragraph is especially facile:

As President Ghani recently said, the Taliban should turn their bullets and bombs into ballots. They should run for office. They should vote. We encourage Taliban leaders to return to Afghanistan from their foreign safe havens and work constructively for Afghanistan’s future. More violence will not bring peace and security to Afghanistan.

The idea that the Taliban would join a democratic political process and share power with Afghans who they view as puppets, stooges and pawns – all words they have previously used to describe the Afghan government – is both a nonstarter and nonsensical.

The Taliban has repeatedly stated that it is fighting a religious war, and that it is therefore required to eject the Coalition and overthrow the Afghan government by force. The reality is the Taliban is waging jihad. The Taliban justifies its jihad by using passages from the Koran. This year’s offensive, Al Khandaq Jihadi operations, is named after a successful battle fought by the Prophet Muhammad in Medina, Saudi Arabia, in 627. Note “jihadi” in the name.

This is what the Taliban stated yesterday when it announced the onset of the operations:

The continuation of the legitimate Jihadi resistance against the foreign invaders and their internal and external supporters is deemed as a legal, moral and security obligation by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan as a defending force of the pious values of our sacred religion of Islam and the territorial integrity of our homeland.

Rather than dismiss the Taliban’s myriad of statements as mere propaganda, instead examine how the Taliban has acted since the US invaded the country in 2001.

The Taliban refused to surrender Osama bin Laden after the attacks on the US on 9/11 and instead risked losing its state. The Taliban didn’t do so just because it didn’t want to violate local custom of protecting a guest; the Taliban and al Qaeda are ideological bedfellows and remain closely allied to this day.

The Taliban has weathered several rough periods since the US invasion. It waited out the US “surge” from 2009-2014, where more than 120,000 US troops backed by the might of US air power, fought to expel the Taliban from its sanctuaries in Helmand and Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Despite suffering major setbacks, it never sought to negotiate or join the political process then. They will not now.

US officials are wasting their time, energy, and political cachet by begging the Taliban to join the peace process and share power with the government of Afghanistan.

Press Releases: On Taliban Announcement of Spring Offensive
04/25/2018 06:37 PM EDT

Press Statement
John J. Sullivan
Acting Secretary of State
Washington, DC
April 25, 2018

We have seen the Taliban’s announcement of their spring offensive. The announcement affirms the Taliban’s responsibility for the insecurity that destroys the lives of thousands of Afghans each year.

President Ghani recently extended an historic invitation for the Taliban to join a peace process, and there is no justification for the announcement of a new offensive. There is no need for a new “fighting season.” Still, the Taliban announced another campaign of senseless violence targeting the democratically elected and internationally recognized Afghan government and their fellow Afghans.

The United States stands with the Afghan people in response to the Taliban’s announcement. We support the brave Afghan security forces who are standing against the Taliban and terrorist groups that seek to destroy Afghan society. We commend the Afghan people, who are carrying on their lives, raising families, attending universities, building businesses, preparing for elections, and strengthening their communities despite violence and continued bloodshed.

As President Ghani recently said, the Taliban should turn their bullets and bombs into ballots. They should run for office. They should vote. We encourage Taliban leaders to return to Afghanistan from their foreign safe havens and work constructively for Afghanistan’s future. More violence will not bring peace and security to Afghanistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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8 Comments

  • S R says:

    President Trump needs to undo Obama’s mistake of removing the terrorist designation from the Taliban, and RE-designate the Taliban as a terrorist organisation NOW.

    • S R says:

      Obama gave the Taliban a lot of legitimacy by removing the terrorist designation from the Taliban, and President Trump being afraid of RE-designating the Taliban as a terrorist organisation has given the Taliban even more legitimacy. Many people, including many westerners, see the Taliban as the legitimate representative of Afghanistan and the Afghan people while they see the 2-headed government of Afghanistan as a ‘powerless, ceremonial, corrupt, selfish, puppet’. The Afghan government lacks respect in Afghanistan and around the world and it is viewed as a joke. Heck, Afghan officials openly disobey and defy President Ghani, an example being an Afghan provincial governor appointed by President Ghani not stepping down as governor when President Ghani replaced him with someone else. President Ghani then backtracked and allowed him to stay on as governor because he is powerless to dismiss him, and the US cannot afford to turn that governor and his men into an enemy of theirs. The Taliban on the other hand are respected in Afghanistan and around the world, even though many westerners dont support and are against their Islamic adherence.

  • jhenry says:

    Nice assessment once again, Bill.

    But, could this be an attempt to drive a wedge between the “small t” Taliban, and the “big T” Taliban? It goes without saying that the two Talibans are connected, but would the less connected and less ideological elements that are on the fringe be willing to side with the ANG if or when the balance tips?

  • TIM says:

    find taliban kill taliban! no more no less! savages stay savages!

  • Arvind says:

    I don’t understand why the focus continues to be Taliban and not Pakistan which not just providing safe sanctuaries but ideological and financial as well. Unless the US and other world powers punish Pakistan nothing absolutely is going to change. Plucking the fruits i.e Taliban of a poisonous tree i.e Pakistan is never going to solve the issue.

    In both wars, Soviet-Afghan and War on Terror, the real culprit was Pakistan but both times it was Afghanistan, a victim, that got punished. Considering the role Pakistans has played in slreading Islamic terrorism within the region and out it should have been a top priority of the US administration and not North Korea or Iran.

    The reason is simple, the Saudis invested heavily in Pakistan’s nuclear program and they expect Pak to supply them with nukes in case Iran acquires them or there is a war with Shia nation. Since Saudi Arabia is a US ally in the region it can do only so much.

    By the way, anyone who thinks that if India removes its presence in Afghanistan and give Kashmir to Pakistan things will improve is naive as its not about India, India is a smokescreen Pakistan has been using to justify its acts of ommisson and commision as well as to cover up for its hegemonic attitude.

    Being the only Islamic nation with nukes they like to think they are the last frontier of the Islamic world and that they should continue their war against the Hindu majority infidel India.

  • Paddy Singh says:

    That US foreign has been a total disaster over the last 4 decades and more cannot be denied. They started wars that they never won and some that they never will. Hence now they try and justify talking to enemies, they thought they had defeated, on grounds of bringing a peace which they wrecked at the cost of thousands upon thousands of lives. And they expect a positive response from the Taliban?

  • D.H says:

    Are the u.s. For real the Taliban would win by a landslide via a gun to the head to every voter !! It beggers belief they would make such a blind stupid statement after all these years of loss and heartache! Get out I say because it seems it’s only a matter of time before the coalition need to leave otherwise just lose more face and warriors !! Vietnam 2

  • Devendra says:

    Good Luck. The Taliban will give up their bombs and bullets the day dogs give up barking. There is only one solution…..KILL’EM ALL.

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