U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could mean negotiating with the Taliban

Key players in the U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan took to the airwaves over the weekend to discuss the future of U.S. withdrawal. For some, that includes political negotiations with the Taliban.

On Friday, Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, said in an NPR interview that there is “no military solution” for Afghanistan and that “there are very active efforts now to seek an appropriate kind of political settlement.”

The senator’s comments come at the end of a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan last week, in which he met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

General David Petraeus, who recently took command in Afghanistan after Gen. Stanley McChrystal resigned in June, appeared on NBC’s Meet the Press over the weekend, saying negotiations were possible.

“There is a prospect for reconciliation with some of the groups,” said Petraeus.

He continued: “You know, ultimately we had to face the question in Iraq of, ‘Will we sit down across the table with people who have our blood on their hands?’ And the answer was yes.”

Also on Sunday, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham appeared on CBS’s Face the Nation, announcing an almost complete reversal of his position on the War in Afghanistan.

The senator, a key member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, now says he supports withdrawing troops from Afghanistan as early as summer 2011.

“After this trip I think we can transition, next summer, some areas of Afghanistan to Afghan control,” said Graham. “I’ve seen progress I have not seen before … we can remove some troops safely without undermining the overall war mission.”

But is negotiating with the Taliban a good idea as the U.S. seeks to lessen involvement in Afghanistan?

In an interview with The Daily Caller, Steven Emerson, the executive director at Investigative Project on Terrorism, said that any settlement with the Taliban would “not be worth the paper it’s written on.”

“This group isn’t an entity that can be trusted whatsoever,” said Emerson. “The notion of a political agreement with the Taliban boggles the mind.”

This shift in how these key players view U.S. involvement in Afghanistan comes only weeks after the State Department released a report of designated terrorist organizations. The report did not include the Taliban, which since 2001, has been named as one of the main causes for the war in Afghanistan.

As TheDC previously reported, the State Department’s report notably excluded the Taliban, while including other groups like Al-Qaida, Hamas, and the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA). State omitted the Taliban although the organization has been responsible for more terrorist attacks on civilians in the last 12 months than any other group.

Sources suggested to TheDC that the State Department’s reasoning was in part due to the administration’s hope that future rapprochement with the Taliban could be kept on the table.

So what would a political agreement with the Taliban look like, should lawmakers pursue one?

“I honestly don’t know. I would be speculating entirely,” said Emerson. “I have no idea.”

Senator Graham’s office did not return TheDC requests to comment for this story.