This is either good news (sort of) or another red herring, but it was announced today that the United States and the Taliban have agreed on a “deconfliction mechanism” which will allow the evacuation of personnel from Kabul through the airport to proceed without interference. The agreement, as reported by both the Associated Press and The Hill, was reached during a meeting in Qatar involving “senior Taliban officials” and General Frank McKenzie. If we simply take this announcement at face value and the word can be spread among the locals currently flooding the airport tarmac, perhaps the pressure could be eased enough to finish up the evacuation with any additional, significant loss of life. But as we’ll get to in a moment, there are reasons to be suspicious about this.
The U.S. has reached a deal with the Taliban to ensure that evacuations from Kabul’s airport can take place without interference from the group, according to a report by The Associated Press.
The deal was reached in talks in Doha, Qatar, between senior Taliban officials and Gen. Frank McKenzie.
The two sides apparently agreed to a “deconfliction mechanism” in which operations at the airport in Kabul are permitted to continue without interference from the Taliban.
I assume this deal is something that Joe Biden will be crowing about during his speech this afternoon. So with the supposedly good news out of the way, let’s briefly consider a few other facts and aspects of this story that leave me a bit dubious about this deal.
First of all, the Taliban’s “office” in Qatar is far removed from the battlefield and it’s where they handle the political and propaganda business of the group. They’ve said any number of things in the past, cutting deals and making promises, most of which never came to pass. There are serious questions as to whether or not the Qatar office even has any real control or even direct communications with their fighters in the field. If they do, then perhaps this is okay, but the fighters currently inside of Kabul may not even be aware that a deal has been supposedly reached.
Let’s say that it’s a genuine offer, however. First of all, there’s nothing stopping them from changing their mind tomorrow. Or if there are more attacks, they will probably blame it on “rogue elements” or something along those lines.
Even if none of that comes to pass, what sort of a “deal” was made? We already heard over the weekend that rumors have been circulating about billions of dollars being promised to the Taliban in exchange for “allowing” us to evacuate. And those aren’t random water-cooler musings. Congresswoman Elise Stefanik tried (unsuccessfully) to raise the issue with Nancy Pelosi during a conference call with the Secretary of State yesterday. Is this the “deconfliction mechanism” being discussed? Did we have to bribe our way into getting our people out? Defense Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters today that he would not be discussing any details of the deal that McKenzie. It seems to me that if it was that great of a bargain they would be letting us know.
And finally, since when do we need to cut a “deal” with a terrorist group just to ship our people out safely? The Taliban must be having a fine laugh about this at the moment, making it look as if they had to graciously grant us permission to flee for our lives. It’s a characterization that sadly may not be far from the truth at this point, and even if not, a lot of world leaders are going to be looking at it that way.
I’ll cross my fingers and hope for the best. We need to get all of our people and our afghan helpers out of there in one piece. But with enough planning and preparation, I still firmly believe it could have been done much better and more safely than this and without having to cut any deals with the Taliban.
What are your thoughts on the story? Let us know in the comments below!