Two interesting stories appear in today's papers. The British, French and Germans have contemporaneously reported indications of a planned large-scale attack by Al Qaeda. Several jihadists killed by drones were identified as holding German citizenship. There has been chatter on monitored channels similar in quantity to that preceding 9/11. The attack is being likened to the one in Mumbai last year. The public relations arm of Al Qaeda (yeah, that's right - it's got its own press flaks) states that a new OBL video is being prepared.
The other story, which was the New York Times lead, discusses the possibility that talks among some senior Taliban leaders, the Karzai government and the United States representatives will take place. The situation is highly speculative, and meetings, if they occur, will not include all Taliban leadership. Mullah Omar, its most prominent chieftain, is not yet in the mix. Pres. Obama said about a year ago that a political solution would be acceptable if the Taliban eschewed violence and agreed to abide by the Afghan Constitution. Now, it seems that the U.S. would accept an agreement even though only some Taliban factions will participate. The reason offered: when our troops begin to withdraw in mid-2011, the Karzai government will fail without such an agreement in effect. Obviously, this also gives political cover to the withdrawal if the 2009 troop increase fails to meet its counterinsurgent goals. So far, it has.
In 2001, the US went into Afghanistan with the mission of destoying Al Qaeda and preventing a repetition of attacks on the scale of 9/11. But there were Madrid and Mumbai, and there have been many smaller terroist acts. The settlement talks omit Al Qaeda, and there is no mention of an impact on the reduction of attacks on foreign soil. The mission has changed, and it can be fairly said, based on publicly available information, that the war has not succeeded in accomplishing its stated purpose. We can write off Afghanistan as a complete waste of life and resources. If you believe, as I do, that the Bush government would not have had the political capital to invade Iraq without the pretext of an Al Qaeda connection, then you can write off Iraq as well. The country has been engaged in pre-emptive war for almost ten years without any political, military, economic or diplomatic gains.