What were we fighting for again? “U.N. Seeks to Drop Some Taliban From Terror List,” by Dexter Filkins for the New York Times, January 24 (thanks to Tanguy Veys):
KABUL, Afghanistan — The leader of the United Nations mission here called on Afghan officials to seek the removal of at least some senior Taliban leaders from the United Nations’ list of terrorists, as a first step toward opening direct negotiations with the insurgent group.
In an interview, Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative, also implored the American military to speed its review of the roughly 750 detainees in its military prisons here — another principal grievance of Taliban leaders. Until recently, the Americans were holding those prisoners at a makeshift detention center at Bagram Air Base and refusing to release their names.
Together, Mr. Eide said he hoped that the two steps would eventually open the way to face-to-face talks between Afghan officials and Taliban leaders, many of whom are hiding in Pakistan. The two sides have been at an impasse for years over almost every fundamental issue, including the issue of talking itself….
American, Afghan and NATO leaders are also preparing to start an ambitious program to persuade rank-and-file Taliban fighters to give up in exchange for schooling and jobs. That plan, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will be the focus of an international conference this week in London.
The plan aims at the bottom of the Taliban hierarchy — the foot soldiers who are widely perceived as mostly poor, illiterate, and susceptible to promises of money and jobs. In 2007 and 2008, a similar effort unfolded in Iraq, where some 30,000 members of the country’s Sunni minority — many of them former insurgents — were put on the American payroll. Partly as a result, violence there plummeted….
Yes, and things are going just swimmingly there now.