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Retired US Soldier Who Met Taliban Negotiators Says 'Common Enemy' Of ISIS May Help End War
The retired Army colonel who was instrumental in driving recent direct talks between the United States and the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan says that "a common enemy" in ISIS may be what helps end the conflict.
"The fear of Afghanistan becoming the next Syria and that their battlefield gains are coming to a close suggests to them that this is a good time to negotiate," Christopher Kolenda recently told ABC News Australia.
In November, Kolenda and former diplomat Robin Raphel traveled to Doha, Qatar to meet with Taliban representatives. Now it seems that this opening in the nearly 17-year-old war could eventually yield some kind of negotiated settlement.
To be clear, Kolenda's initial trip was not explicitly sanctioned by the U.S. government, although he worked on previous negotiations under the Obama administration. However, Kolenda said recently it was rumored that U.S.-Taliban talks would continue in early September (Taliban officials met with Alice Wells, the State Department’s senior South Asia diplomat, in July, according to the New York Times).
In the ABC interview, Kolenda explained that present-day Afghanistan is much more complex than it had been in the past. Instead of the Taliban fighting the Afghan government and its U.S. backers, it now contends with an ISIS affiliate and others jockeying for power.
The concern of the Taliban, he said, was that Afghanistan could eventually experience a "descent into chaos" similar to that of the 1990s, with various warlords and militia groups locked in a constant battle for territorial control, or morph into a similar outlook as the Syrian civil war.
"That's why they are so interested in exploring a productive peace process," he said, adding that ISIS is a common enemy of the Taliban, the Afghan government, and the United States.
The Taliban has been fairly clear in its goals, which first and foremost has meant to end the occupation of Afghanistan by foreign troops. But as Kolenda explained, that position doesn't necessarily mean U.S. troops would be required to walk out of Afghanistan immediately with their heads down.
Here's what he told Voice of America:
"There’s a lot of nuance here that I think is very important. What they’ve said consistently, and this goes back to 2010, is that if a government formed after a political settlement, which presumably would include Taliban leaders, decides that they would like international troops to train Afghan security forces, then that’s a decision that a legitimate, inclusive government can take.
Now the corollary to that, which is also very important, is that if a government, post-political settlement, said, ‘We don’t want foreign troops here at all,’ then there would be an expectation that foreign countries would respect that decision and their foreign troops would go.
So I think it’s really important to understand this more holistic point of view. Their No. 1 reason for war — their casus belli, if you will — is the occupation. So they’re not going to just simply say, ‘We’re OK with U.S. combat troops running around Afghanistan.’ Because that’s what they’re fighting to prevent, from their point of view."
Benjamin Franklin nailed it when he said, "Fatigue is the best pillow." True story, Benny. There's nothing like pushing your body so far past exhaustion that you'd willingly, even longingly, take a nap on a concrete slab.
And no one knows that better than military service members and we have the pictures to prove it.
Confessions Of An Apache Pilot: What It's Like To Fly The Military's Most Heavily Armed Attack Helicopter
Welcome to Confessions Of, an occaisional series where Task & Purpose's James Clark solicits hilarious, embarrassing, and revealing stories from troops and vets about their job, billet, or a tour overseas. Are you in an interesting assignment and think you might have something to share? Email email@example.com with your story.
"Nothing is more powerful than a young boy's wish. Except an Apache helicopter. An Apache helicopter has machine guns and missiles. It is an unbelievably impressive complement of weaponry, an absolute death machine."
While this Patrick Stewart quote may be from an R-rated movie about a talking teddy bear, it's remarkably accurate. After all, the old warhorse has been kicking ass since it was first adopted by the U.S. Army in the 1980s. Designed to get into trouble fast and put it down even faster, the AH-64 Apache usually comes bristling with ordnance, from an M230 chain gun firing 30mm rounds to Hellfire missiles and rockets.
In the words of Tyler Merritt "it's basically a fucking flying tank."
White supremacist James Jackson – accused of trying to start a race war by killing a homeless black man in Times Square with a sword — pleaded guilty Wednesday to murder as an act of terrorism.
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