Over the past few days, with the help of the Washington Post editorial board, we’ve discussed some of the ways in which President Obama is thinking about squirming out of his promise to fight the war in Afghanistan to win. Specifically, we’ve looked at “Pakistan First” and “Plan B for Bush.” In another variation on a gyration, Obama also seems to be thinking about redefining the war to be against only al Qaeda, not the Taliban.
Suddenly, Obama is, in the words of his spokesperson, “prepared to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistan’s political future.” I’m sure the Taliban thinks that’s big of Obama. But one wonders whether, given Obama’s apparent lack of appetite for the fight, the Taliban is prepared to accept his involvement in Afghanistan’s political future.
In any event, Obama’s attempt to play “good Islamist terrorist; bad Islamist terrorist” could hardly be more misguided. As Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio demonstrate, al Qaeda is, and has always been, “the tip of a much longer jihadist spear.” Thus, in Afghanistan, “each of the three primary Afghan insurgent groups – the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST), the Haqqani Network (HQN), and the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) – is a core ally of al Qaeda with long-established personal ties between these groups’ senior leaders and al Qaeda’s senior leaders.”
In addition, as Joscelyn shows here, the evidence is mounting that the Taliban receives substantial and lethal support from Iran. Tom also reports that there is a gag order prohibiting our commanders from discussing Iran’s support for the Taliban. Presumably that order exists to prevent public discontent over the fact that Obama’s negotiating partner is assisting the Taliban in killing Americans in Afghanistan (as it did in Iraq). But the suppression of evidence of the Taliban’s links to Iran might also come in handy if Obama tilts towards the Taliban.
But again, the notion that the Taliban will suddenly become our partner is too ludicrous seriously to contemplate (unless, of course, you’re a left-liberal grasping at straws to avoid fighting to win). Mullah Omar was unwilling to betray al Qaeda even though it meant being chased from power and risking the destruction of himself and his movement. Why would he do so now, when he seems to be staging something of a comeback? As Joscelyn and Roggio conclude:
Mullah Omar is the “Leader of the Faithful” and al Qaeda has sworn allegiance to his Emirate. Osama bin Laden himself has sworn his personal fealty to Mullah Omar. For Omar to betray bin Laden and al Qaeda now would be a colossal blemish on the Taliban’s legitimacy in the broader jihadist community’s eyes.