There are some Afghans wasting precious energy and time talking about how the United States legitimized the Taliban by using the Doha Agreement to force direct Islamic Republic of Afghanistan-to-Taliban talks. This is not only a waste of time, but also wrong; and every time an Afghan utters those ideas, they are helping Pakistan with their long-term strategy—to tear apart the long-term U.S.-Afghan partnership.

The Taliban militia movement exists

The Taliban militia movement exists in Afghanistan and Pakistan for several reasons, but here are some of that we must understand. Most importantly, the Taliban still exist as a legitimate (genuine and evil) social/militia movement because Pakistan wants them to. Pakistan freely allows them to be supported and even provides them safe haven on Pakistani soil. The Taliban also exist as a movement because the Afghan government still has not convinced their entire citizenry that the Taliban is a dead-end movement and that the citizens must trust the ANDSF to secure them. Finally, the Taliban exist as an ideological movement because they can still recruit (rent) fighters to join them and still get away with killing innocent Afghans every day—often women and children.

Have no doubt that the Taliban and their proxy masters in Pakistan are mostly responsible for the existence of the Taliban, but the international community and the Afghan people also are partially to blame for their continued existence.

So, the U.S. didn’t legitimize the Taliban; they already have legitimacy as a social movement—they do exist. The U.S. purposely stated in all diplomatic communications signed at Doha that the US does not recognize the Taliban as any type of “government in exile.” The U.S. used its diplomatic muscle to get other nations to push the Pakistanis and the Taliban to cross a massive and long-standing red line. The U.S. caused the Taliban to enter direct negotiations with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. That act alone caused the Taliban to instantly lose legitimacy as a so-called government in exile. When the Taliban walked into the room with the UN recognized Afghan government, they admitted that the actual government existed. The Afghan peace negotiations finally caused the Taliban to legitimize the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

That moment was a step that the Afghan government alone has not been able to reach since 2001, even though it had been a key part of increasing the legitimacy of IRoA. No matter what they say now, the Taliban cannot take back the legitimacy they gave to IRoA in Doha. The Afghan people must remember that going forward.

Stop Helping Pakistan and the Taliban

Any Afghan that wastes time talking incorrectly about the U.S. action of making the Taliban recognize the Afghan government as “some kind of betrayal” only helps one nation. That nation is Pakistan. Pakistan has had a few goals since 2001 when the U.S. aided the United Front and their allies in removing the illegal Taliban regime. First, they wanted to fool the Americans and the world into thinking Pakistan was done supporting the Taliban. Second, they wanted to convince the NATO forces to keep the ANDSF small, so that their Taliban proxy force could remove them later. Finally, Pakistan has sought to keep the relations between the U.S. and Afghanistan weakened, so that eventually the U.S. would abandon Afghans again and Pakistan would be the strongest neighbor, allowing them to basically make Afghanistan a fifth Pakistani province.

What’s happened since Doha

The Doha Agreement happened over a year ago. It was signed right after the Kabul Agreement that promised continued long-term U.S.-Afghan security partnerships.

It was followed by a series of trust building steps for the Taliban and IRoA to follow. Only IRoA fully met all those commitments and gained massive trust from the international community. Direct talks finally began despite the Taliban failing to keep their end of the Doha deal. IRoA for its efforts earned long-term pledges of support for the Islamic republic of Afghanistan in areas of security, development, and aid. They earned those commitments from almost the entire international community This was because IRoA met all expectations of the international community in these early stages of the peace-building process.

Since the Doha agreements, there has been a smooth departure of NATO forces as the U.S. and their coalition partners kept all their Doha commitments. This departure was always going to happen, and so far, it has been much less of a dramatic event than most predicted.

Since Doha, the Taliban have worked every day to break or find loopholes in all their Doha commitments. The Taliban also launched a full-scale attack on Afghan civilians across the country, often targeting students and young children, even babies and mothers giving birth.

For the Taliban, the Doha agreement gave them one last chance to earn some trust from Afghan people and the International community. For their deceitful and evil actions, the Taliban have lost every ounce of trust from the international community. The Taliban also lost any last bit of goodwill that any sane Afghan had left for them. The Taliban are more hated now than they have ever been.

For not closing-down the Taliban safe havens in Pakistan and for not completely stopping Pakistan support for the Taliban, Pakistan also lost more trust from the international community. Of course, Pakistan has lost even more trust from Afghans. Pakistan foolishly chose to side with the Taliban instead of the rest of the world.

What Happens Next

The Taliban, based on their current track record, will continue to overreach in negotiations. The Afghan government merely needs to keep the olive branch extended to the Taliban for the next few years, until the Taliban change their actions. The Pakistani agents supporting and protecting the Taliban will grow more frustrated by the inability to the Taliban to secure, hold, and govern any major population centers. Pakistan will eventually betray their proxy force. The Afghan people must continue to unite and rally together behind the IRoA and ANDSF. The Afghan government will continue to strengthen its relationships with every nation friendly to them.

There has been a lot of positive diplomatic leverage shifts in the last year. Afghans don’t have to thank the American diplomats for this change—the shift, where the Afghan government now holds all the leverage in the peace negotiations. I would advise Afghans not to spend time helping Pakistan destroy U.S.-Afghan relations. Railing against the Americans for what has happened negatively in the last year only deflects the proper blame from the Taliban butchers and their Proxy masters in Pakistan.

The goal of Pakistan and the Taliban is to drive a wedge between Afghanistan and the outside world, especially the United States. Do not help them do this.

The most important relationship that Afghans will have in the coming decades is with the United States. Afghans, especially senior leaders, should not give the American people or the U.S. government any reason to end the special relationship that has been formed between the two nations. The last time Americans abandoned Afghans it led to a tragedy that is still unfolding. No responsible leader in either nation should be helping Pakistan to make that happen again.

 

 

 

 

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild, works with numerous non-profits and aids conflict resolution in Afghanistan.