Small Wars Journal

Talking to the Taliban

Talking to the Taliban - Robert Kaplan, The Atlantic

No matter how much leverage you hold over a country, it is rare that you can get it to act against its core self-interest. The United States has struggled with this dilemma for decades in regards to its relations with Israel and South Korea. Self-interest based on the facts of geography is what makes America's relations with these two close allies particularly fractious. Israel has long refused to scale back settlements in the occupied territories, frustrating U.S. efforts at peacemaking, even as American soldiers die in Iraq and Afghanistan. Conversely, South Korea has, in certain periods, extended an olive branch to the North Korean communists, frustrating U.S. efforts to erect a strong, united front against the Pyongyang regime. Now the U.S. faces the same problem with another of its ostensible allies, Pakistan.

The U.S. demands that Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), its spy agency, sever relations with the Taliban. Based on Pakistan's own geography, this makes no sense from a Pakistani point of view. First of all, maintaining lines of communications and back channels with the enemy is what intelligence agencies do. What kind of a spy service would ISI be if it had no contacts with one of the key players that will help determine its neighbor's future?

Much more at The Atlantic.