The Afghan Taliban may have shown up in the United Arab Emirates for a confab with an extremely conciliatory United States this week, the militant group has a clear message for the Afghan officials who joined the U.S. special peace envoy: F--k your couch.
- "Discussions are taking place with the representatives of the United States about ending the occupation, a matter that does not concern the Kabul administration whatsoever," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement denying that his reps would pow-wow with members of the Afghan government.
- Kabul’s chief negotiator had previously met with the U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Abu Dhabi earlier on Tuesday, an Afghan spokesman stated, adding that the government will "begin proximity dialogue with the Taliban delegation and prepare for a face-to-face meeting between the two sides."
- Still, "Kabul administration" is, surprisingly, a step up. The Taliban has refused to hold direct talks with Afghan officials for years, deriding the central government in Kabul as little more than a "U.S. puppet."
- But at the same time, Mujahid isn't totally wrong: With the Taliban increasingly in control of more and more territory across Afghanistan, Kabul lacks the raw security leverage to negotiate anything with the militant group after 17 years of constant war.
- Indeed, the U.S. nominee to lead U.S. Central Command, Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., stated outright earlier this month that the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces would likely collapse outright if the U.S. were to withdraw its military forces from the country.
- “If we left precipitously right now, I do not believe they would be able to successfully defend their country," McKenzie told lawmakers during his confirmation hearing on Dec. 4. "I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I think that one of the things that would actually provide the most damage to them would be if we put a timeline on it and we said we were going out at a certain point in time."
We now go live to those eventual direct talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban: