The Washington Post reported last week that members of the Obama administration are seeking to incorporate the Taliban into the Afghan government in a way similar to the way Hezbollah participates in the Lebanese government -- maintaining control over parts of the country and participating in the government as a minority faction. Witnesses testified this morning before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs against such a reported approach to dealing with the Taliban.
The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are "genetically and... ideologically mixed," said J. Alexander Thier, director of Afghanistan and Pakistan at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Thier cited the intermarriages between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda along with Al-Qaeda's support for the Taliban's rise to power in the 1990s. Frederick Kagan, who also testified this morning, strongly agreed, "it (a Taliban safe haven) would be almost certain to provide Al-Qaeda with a haven that we would not be able to access." Kagan and Thier also pointed out that leadership has become increasingly linked to Al-Qaeda during the current war against the Afghan government and the United States.
Some Democrats and a few Republicans do not want the United States to fight the Taliban, but rather wish only to fight Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The implication is that fewer American forces would be needed, and troops would be used mainly in a more limited counter-terrorism strategy against Al-Qaeda. While the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are not identical, the former Taliban government housed Osama Bin Laden and has killed hundreds of American troops in the insurgency. Such an approach to co-op the Taliban seems like overly-wishful thinking.
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