US and Taliban: ‘Negotiate and fight as if there were no negotiations’

US and Taliban: ‘Negotiate and fight as if there were no negotiations’
Despite a deal to negotiate, neither the United States nor the Taliban has declared a ceasefire or a promise to stop fighting, Middle East expert Phyllis Bennis told RT.

Meanwhile, the shaky peace process in Afghanistan is under threat, after President Karzai suspended talks with the US on a new security deal in response to Washington’s U-turn decision to open direct negotiations with the Taliban.

RT:It looks like the two sides have very different objectives from the start – is it actually a road to peace?

Phyllis Bennis: This is the only possibility for peace negotiations that have any chance at all. But of course it’s going to be a very difficult one because as you say – the two sides – there really are 3 sides – have very different agendas going in. President Obama in his speech in the G8 summit talked about how we needed an Afghan led, Afghan owned process, meaning for him that the Afghan government has to be involved. But of course the actual process is not involving the Afghan government- it’s directly between the US and the Taliban. So there’s a difference there between what he said and the actual plan

They also see the opening of this new office in Doha as a way of opening up to the rest of the world – ending their isolation perhaps. I think that’s one of their major goals.

Afghan Taliban look on after handing over their weapons as they join the Afghan government's reconciliation and reintegration program in Herat province, February 17, 2013.(Reuters / Mohmmad Shoib)

RT:Having said that, the Taliban also never said they would stop fighting despite the agreement to negotiate. Why isn’t Washington demanding that at least they suspend the attacks?

PB: Well, I think if they did they would have to suspend their own attacks. The Taliban position is very much a reflection of what was the semi-official position of the US during the negotiations with Vietnam after 1973 the Henry Kissinger led ‘peace process’ (so-called) where the US talked about how ‘we will negotiate as if there were no war and we will fight as if there were no negotiations.’ This is what the Taliban are doing.

Neither side has agreed to stop fighting: The Taliban has not, the US has not. So I think the one that gets left out in the cold here is the Karzai government, and of course there’s a serious problem for Karzai because – and he has come back against the US and said ‘we’re cancelling talks not only around these Doha processes, but we’re cancelling talks with the US over the stationing of troops after 2014.’ What becomes very important because the model here is Iraq, where the inability of the US to convince the Iraqi government to allow them full immunity for their troops. The Iraqis simply stopped negotiating and the US was forced to pull out all their troops. And all the Pentagon-paid mercenaries were contractors – something that they certainly do not want to do in Afghanistan.