Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made news Wednesday when he said the combat role for U.S. troops in Afghanistan could end next year instead of 2014. On Thursday, he took a step back — insisting U.S. forces will remain combat ready — even as they transition into their new role of training Afghan troops.
Another part of the U.S. strategy involves getting the Taliban to hold peace talks with the Afghan government. CBS News correspondent Clarissa Ward spoke with some top Taliban representatives where they live in Pakistan.
They call Sami ul Haq the “Father of the Taliban,” one of Pakistan’s most well-known and hard-line Islamists.
Ward visited ul Haq at his religious school near the Afghan border. Many Afghan Taliban leaders and fighters studied there, earning it the nickname the “University of Jihad.”
Ul Haq said that top Taliban figures are receptive to the idea of peace talks, but that three key conditions must be met first: The Americans must leave Afghanistan, he told Ward. Secondly, Taliban leaders should be released from Guantonamo. The third demand is there should be no outside interference in Afghanistan.
It’s unlikely that American negotiators will accept these terms, though a release of some prisoners from Guantanamo Bay has been discussed.
While some elements of the Taliban’s leadership may be supportive of peace talks, there are clear signs that divisions exist within the group. Many of the younger, more militant foot soldiers insisting that they are not ready to stop fighting.
At a small guesthouse on the outskirts of Islamabad, CBS News had the rare chance to sit down with a young Taliban commander from Helmand province. For security reasons, he asked that his face be not shown.
“If these talks in Doha are successful and Taliban leaders tell you and your fighters to put down your arms, will you do it?” asked Ward.
“No, it will not happen,” he said. “And those who are talking to the political wing of the Taliban should understand that real peace is only possible by talking to the ground fighters.”
“So the bottom line is you’re not willing to compromise, you’re not willing to collaborate? Is there any chance of peace?”
“If the Afghan government announced tomorrow that strict Islamic law would be reinstated, we would accept that,” he said, “but those in power now will never go along with that.”
For the moment, there is a huge gulf between what the Taliban and their backers want and what America would be willing to accept.
So the Deans of Jihad have dictated terms to the West, the terms they propose of the West’s surrender to the Jihadis in the war on terror.
So what should the response of the West be? Should we surrender to the Jihadis, or should we fight to win?
This guy Sami ul Haq should be a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp along with his University of Jihad colleagues, his controllers from the Pakistani ISI and his financial backers from Saudi Arabia.
The US and Western allies ought to name Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as “state sponsors of terrorism”.
We ought to seize control of Pakistani and Saudi TV satellites and use them to broadcast propaganda calling for the arrest of all involved in waging terrorist war against the West.
It just seems very poor tactics for our military to be risking life and limb in the minefields of Afghanistan yet at the strategic level our governments and businesses are still “trading with the enemy”.
As the Star Trek character Commander Scott might have said –
“It’s war, Captain but not as we know it.”