This post is in response to a direct request from SGT Danger, who has experienced a change of mission.
First, read some basic history on Afghanistan. You don’t need to know a ton, but being familiar with the history there is a good idea, and Afghans are very impressed with someone who has taken the time, and had the respect, to learn about their history. Afghanistan has a long history and is a witness to many empires, most of which have run over Afghanistan like steamrollers. Afghanistan has been like the cartoon character who is run over by a car, struggles to his feet and has scarcely dusted himself off when he is run over again. And again. And again, ad nauseum. Afghans, particularly the Pashtuns, have been called xenophobic, and while they have some xenophobic tendencies, it is this role as the speed bump of history that has ingrained this.
In your research you will find that the Persians, Alexander the Great, Tamerlane, Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, and more recently the British Empire and the Russians have all swept through Afghanistan. For some, this paints a picture of the indomitable Afghan. I tend to disagree, as the Afghans have indeed been conquered on numerous occasions. However, Afghanistan has never been the prize, more like a necessary bridge from where the conqueror was to where he wished to be. What the Afghans are, however, is survivors. The ominous name “graveyard of empires” is a misnomer. None of the great ancient empires were undone in Afghanistan, but Afghanistan was instead a way to measure the waxing and waning of these empires. They all swept through on their way to expansion, and then had to retract through Afghanistan again on their way back whence they came, leaving their genetic mark on the land. The Afghans, however, have survived. Afghans are not indomitable; they are consummate survivors, amazing in their flexibility and often playing foreigners off of each other and their domestic competitors.
More recently, the British and Russians have found great difficulty in Afghanistan, mostly through their own idiotic mistakes. These experiences in particular are held up as some sort of omen as to the fortunes of the NATO mission in Afghanistan. I caution you not to give much credence to such examples, for there are significant differences. No one through history has gone to Afghanistan for the sake of Afghanistan. What we are doing in Afghanistan is for their sake, but do not become confused; it is not because we are so selfless. It is because by doing the right thing in Afghanistan, we make ourselves safer. Do not buy in to any thoughts of whether or not they deserve our assistance. The question is in itself diversionary. We chose this mission eight years ago because it is our best interests. The Afghans need a lot of help. Theirs is a society that has been developmentally disabled by thirty years of warfare. They have forgotten how to govern even as well as they were ever governed. Forty years ago, Afghanistan was on its way towards modernization. Events since the deposition of the king in 1973 (the king died in August, 2007) have taken Afghanistan back until they are now ten minutes out of the stone age.
If you think of Afghanistan as an individual, this would be a person who has suffered repeated blows to the head and suffers from TBI and PTSD.
A basic understanding of this will assist you in your observations of Afghan behavior. Observations of behavior are critical; your best way to prepare for danger is to be able to recognize what normal looks like. It is only through learning what normal looks like that you will have any hope of recognizing what abnormal looks like. Being able to recognize abnormal behavior or circumstances will help you to stay alive and keep your Soldiers safe. At first, when you arrive, your “Spidey sense” will be alerting you constantly, overloading your mind and your emotions. Relax. Learn. In a short time (2-3 weeks) you will have seen much of Afghan behavior enough to know (mostly) what normal looks like.
Expect to see crushing poverty. Expect to see children who appear to be about four years old herding goats or sheep off by themselves in the middle of the day. Expect to see more Toyota Corollas than you ever thought were built. The general feeling has often been described as Biblical times blended with the Wild West with a touch of Mad Max.
Do not confuse illiteracy with stupidity. Afghans very often learn quickly by observation. They have a strong tradition of oral history. Be aware of why they are consummate fence-sitters, the ferocity of their lack of commitment born of a strong survival instinct. Understand that, often, what we see as corruption they see as the price of doing business.
Be slow to judge them by American standards. While the easy answer, it will only breed discontent in your own soul. There are many Afghans who are very glad that you are there. If you have close contact with them, you will quite likely be thanked by some for being there. There will be more on culture in further chapters.
The link to the history of Afghanistan above is to Wikipedia’s good synopsis of Afghan history. It’s not terribly long, and it provides links to any particular area you’d care to explore.
An excellent introduction to the modern history of Afghanistan and the development of the Taliban is National Geographic’s “Inside the Taliban.” This can be found in ten parts here (follow stu106 thread of ten parts on YouTube.) It can also be downloaded in full here.
There are other websites with more anthropological examinations of Afghanistan, like Registan and Ghosts of Alexander. Both are written by academics and offer insight that can be helpful. Joshua Foust, author of Registan, recently returned from Afghanistan.
Finally, if you get a chance to catch a screening of “At War,” a documentary film by independent journalist Scott Kesterson, miss an entire night’s sleep to do so if necessary. This film will give you a sense of what it’s like on the ground. It has been known to make veterans of Afghanistan experience the same rush of combat they felt in country. It’s that good.
Once you have completed the above (“At War” film optional based on availability,) you will have a passing knowledge of the land for which you are bound.
This is what happens to you when you suck at combat journalism. I think this is funnier than covering dog shows.
There is a disturbing trend among milbloggers; they fade away. So many who have written during their deployments come home and eventually shut down their blogs. This groundswell of on-the-spot literature detailing the experiences of so many and giving unique insights into the minds of America’s fighting few is as temporary as a Facebook profile or a Yahoo Personals ad. That’s a loss, because we few, we happy few, we band of bloggers are writing history and then deleting it.
More after the jump.
Last year I was contacted by a graduate student in history who sought permission to archive my blog. I’m sure I was not the only one. A friend of mine, Susan, a PhD Professor of Journalism who is fascinated by the phenomenon of milblogging, lamented two things in a recent conversation. First, she lamented the fact that so many female milbloggers just go away, as they provide a unique insight into a war that females have shared the burden in like no other. Second was the fact that so many milbloggers cannot find what we decided to call a “post-deployment voice.” I know I struggled with this, and a quick check of my archives after my return from the lumpy sandbox will show that struggle. Eventually, I found that voice. Many don’t.
Susan also pointed out that there are dozens of Iraqi blogs that are maintained even if the principle author is killed. These are insurgent blogs, and at this rate their history will overshadow our own. Win the war, lose the history. Hey, it’s happened before. It’s not like there aren’t, or won’t be, any revisionists out there. Ask a holocaust survivor… if you can find one.
Troy, the author of Bouhammer, and I discussed this as well. He had the same trouble. We talked about the number of blogs out there, some quite popular while the author was in a theater of combat, who just faded away, eventually to remove their blog from the rolls of the blogosphere. Some had their own domains and I suppose that they just got tired of paying for them. Some just quit writing, but instead of leaving the blog up they deactivated it or deleted it.
Here is my plea: Don’t delete your blog. Please don’t delete your blog. Whether you realize it or not, whether you can find a post-deployment voice or not, whether or not you feel that you can share the experiences of being a veteran warrior returning to a country that seems to have forgotten or chooses to ignore, please don’t delete your blog. You have written history, and someday there will be those who wish to know what you saw, how you felt, how the events such as the summits, the conferences, the elections, the official high level stuff that others will care to prognosticate, spin, alter and otherwise fold, spindle or mutilate affected you as an entity who wore one pair of boots at a time. Someday your story may affect someone’s perception of how the big picture looked from your angle, and how your little picture fit into the big picture.
It’s bigger than you. If you are paying for a domain and you wish to stop, get a blogspot address and import your old posts. Please. It’s too easy.
Historians want to be the ones who unearth the next treasure trove of long-dormant letters from the front in a trunk from an old attic. We have done more documentation of this war from the ground level than in any other war. Except this war, which has been so well documented on electrons, is likely to be the least well-documented in posterity because electrons fade away or are deleted.
So, from one blogger to another (or thousands of others,) please keep your blog up on the net, even if you never write in it again.
Readers, if you have a favorite milblog that has disappeared, send in the name and old link to the blog. We’re going to start a list of now-defunct blogs and perhaps we can prevail upon the authors to restore their blogs, if not their voices, to the blogosphere.
Here’s a story which rings bells straight out of Vietnam. Last week an ambush patrol executed by a platoon from 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry had great results. They absolutely kicked ass on a group of Taliban diddy-bopping along a trail on a mountain called Sautalu Sar in the Korengal Valley. Classic Infantry stuff. I felt a visceral Infantry reaction and a heartfelt, “Good job!” in my Infantry heart.
It was a night ambush, which we should probably be doing more of. This is a rare story of how Americans actually took back part of the night on the ground in Afghanistan, where we largely cede the night to the predations of the Taliban. That’s how night letters get delivered as we sleep peacefully in our FOBs.
More, plus comments, after the jump
Now, the Korengal is not like the rest of Afghanistan. The Korengal is an anomaly, and a poor example of Afghanistan. It is a cauldron of botched engagement, fueled by years-old mistakes that alienated the locals more than any Taliban or Wahhabist influence even could. That’s a longer story, one that has been told elsewhere. The Korengal is a guerrilla war in a hostile valley that the Afghan government has no sway over and may never. It is a superhighway of infiltration and the only home of Wahhabism in Afghanistan. It is the most dangerous place in Afghanistan to be an American, and our Soldiers there have taken it on the chin day after day for years in what is a holding action against the spread of the disease. It is also a magnet for bloodthirsty journalists who want the juicy combat story, the story of peril and loss and dark victories on a mountainside where small groups of men contend for momentary control of a mountain trail with their all.
The story of the Korengal is not the story of Afghanistan, just like the story of Over the Rhine is not the story of Cincinnati. The real story of Afghanistan is less and less likely to be told. CNN, who only just reestablished an office in Kabul, has apparently informed NATO that they have no interest in reporting on the soft power influence in Afghanistan, only on “direct-action” kinetic operations, telling NATO that it’s what their “viewers demand.”
Demand? Excuse me?
CNN, whose dedicated viewers are the least likely to be supportive of military “success” in any realm, much less Afghanistan, wants to portray only one small slice of the war in Afghanistan, and they caveat their coverage? Hey, I’ve got an idea; get the %&(# out of the country!
The real story of any success in Afghanistan isn’t going to be an ambush on a mountainside in the Korengal, or a firefight along the highway in Logar or Wardak. The real story of any success in Afghanistan is going to be with the embedded trainers working in an ill-furnished office on an Afghan military camp, gently influencing their charge to abandon corruption. The real story is going to be civilian mentors helping to influence a economic development in a district with villages made of straw and mud. The real story is going to be Afghan National Police who start patrolling their villages at night, their presence keeping a night letter from being delivered and weakening the hold of terror on a few families.
The ambush on Sautalu Sar was great. It was excellent counter-terrorist work, and a brilliant small unit Infantry action. It is excellent work done by young men in the high-altitude night halfway around the world from home. It was well-planned, well-executed, highly professional work; and it was incredibly brave. This is wonderful news, and I hope that it will inspire line units around the country to begin to lie quietly in the dark and ambush the Taliban who roam around at night. I fear that it will also distract them from being the shield that the people need from the Taliban 24 hours a day. It is the Infantry love of our (perceived) greatest influence; firepower and sudden, unrelenting violence that often calls us away from the quiet work of counterinsurgency to actively hunt when we should be passively protecting.
The story of Sautalu Sar is a double-edged sword in that way. It is something that we should do, but it is not all that we should do. As I have commented over at Abu Muquwama, a huge part of our problem, the basis of our failures in my opinion, has been our failure to actually perform the gritty, unglamorous work of counterinsurgency, preferring to be the hunter instead of the hunted as is so often required of the counterinsurgent who is doing what he must. This is, in my opinion, the root of the mistake we make with our firepower. Our priority is all too often to kill instead of to protect.
When the chips are down, your priorities come through. When the priority is to kill the bad guy instead of merely separating him from the people, then the application of massive force, the sledgehammer to kill the fly, becomes a natural extension of that priority. If the priority had been to protect the populace and everything possible had been done to prevent the loss of innocent lives, that would be evident. Make no mistake; this is a war, and in war people die. No doubt. There will be civilian casualties as the result of coalition actions, but they must be as rare as possible and then must be admitted to instantly and without any purpose of evasion. When our true priority becomes protecting the populace, separating the insurgent from his ability to influence the villager, then the insurgent will be forced to exert more and more force to demonstrate that the coalition cannot protect that civilian. Then nearly all, not just most, civilian deaths will be the result of Taliban actions, and that’s when public opinion will begin to swing strongly in the direction of the Afghan Government, NATO, and the United States.
That being said, a JDAM on a confirmed Taliban patrol on a mountainside, with weapons confirmed by American eyes on the ground, is a wonderful thing. Bombing a wedding party on the word of an “informant” without any eyes-on observation is not an example of this. The Taliban will lie and try to portray their losses as innocent civilians, but it will be a lot harder to prove when they cannot come up with fragments of civilians to present as evidence.
Sautalu Sar is a great kinetic story, all too rare in Afghanistan. I just hope that we don’t take from it the wrong message.
The publicist for this asked nicely, and it’s a very nice tribute with a great story behind it, so here it is:
Just to be clear; this is only nominally about Bill Maher. Really, Maher is just a symptom. His “joke” about military rapists was ill-advised, but sometimes a guy hits a clunker. I still call foul, but whatever; it’s not the end of the world. Like I said, it’s a symptom of a series of issues that are all tied together, a few of which are brought together in this comment left on Bouhammer.com, which Troy Steward, the blogauthor over at Bouhammer, has kindly allowed me to use for the purpose of response.
Get some popcorn, there’s more after the jump.
Here is the original comment:
Richard, on April 3rd, 2009 at 11:27 am
What is up with the attitude? Mayer is funny. There have been rapes in Okinawa. You didn’t do it. I didn’t do it. So, why all the hostility? Oh, yeah, I ams one non-Republican who has: Lobbied to get you better armor, rations and housing, better bebefits from the VA. I’ve spent time and money escorting OUR fallen to their graves, willing to spend a night in jail if it meant OUR guys would get buried without looney fruitcase demonstrators harrassing the survivors.
After having been through one circle jerking rattfuck on behalf of our nation, I’m not at all suprised you have to wear these goofy belts while on patrol. But, just for morale purposes, let me share a scripture with you; Hebrews 13:8
Jesus Christ, the same yesteday, today, and forever.
They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. Take that with a grain of salt. We learned something, about politics and fighting, in our generation. It means, to me, if you’re gonna go, go hard. This fucking around politically, occupying and policing, is not an Armed Forces job. So it’s an automatic cluster fuck when they make you try. Vampire’s got it right, but he’s farting upwind, you wait and see.
We need about 40,000 green berets looking for one criminal, Ozzie B., and the rest can sort itself out. The food and firewood options should be NGOs jobs. Military should be ‘high cover’. There, available, and mostly invisible.
Sorry to grind on ya, but it sure seemed we would have learned COIN by now. I’m not a liberal, but I sure ain’t a Repugnut. I’d rather you (as in, ALL of you) were home. It tears my guts to bury kids again, and I don’t want one life uselessly spent. Having said all that, YOU are the guy in-country, so you get the edge.
Thanks for listening
Richard, thank you for your service and for escorting the remains of America’s fallen, I assume as a Patriot Guard Rider. I deeply appreciate the Patriot Guard Riders. Thanks for your lobbying efforts as well. Thanks also for this comment on Bouhammer’s blog, because it got me going.
Let’s take this a step at a time; first, Maher is officially no longer funny. Maher is at best generally funny. Funny in the sense you used it is a state of being, and with this Maher is not existing in a state of being funny. He is at best generally funny, but he is not funny. Depending on your taste, he is usually, sometimes, or rarely funny, but he is not funny.
Why the hostility? Because someone has to say it, and tens of thousands of deployed servicemembers lack either the time, the bandwidth, the words or the platform to speak up against being called a bunch of rapists. Indeed, there have been rapes on Okinawa. Again, I would point out that while such events are exceedingly bad for international relations, a foreign national is less likely to be raped by a young Soldier or Marine than an American woman is to be raped by a non-military male in any American city with a comparable population of males in the same demographic groups.
You will never find a more professional group of young men than the 18-26 year olds in the military. You may find individual civilians who you may hold up with a spotlight on them, but I defy you to find a group of civilians of similar ages who routinely take the lives of others in their hands the way these people do and deliver the results that they do.
There is not an American company who can claim anyplace near the success rate in training and dedication that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines routinely deliver. There is not a similar group of young men in this country who have a lower overall crime rate. The best young men and women that this nation has to offer are in the Armed Forces of the United States; they are a credit not only to the organizations that they serve but to themselves and their families as well. Just to stay focused; I am not speaking of older professionals, nor am I speaking of senior NCO’s or officers. I am speaking strictly about our young Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors. I by no means claim personal superiority to any civilian professional. This is not about me nor meant to degrade anyone. It is in response to a degrading comment, and to those who find it “funny.” I have never in my life seen, as a group, a more professional bunch of young people.
If Chevrolet and their union could consistently produce the level of professionalism that our young servicemembers display, there would be no need for a bailout. If the banks displayed the same level of selfless service as these young men and women, there would be no need for a bailout. If Wall Street displayed the same knowledge of right and wrong as these young Americans, there would be no need for a bailout. An Army PFC could figure out that being given money by the government to do a job doesn’t mean, “give yourself a bonus.”
Trust me, Bill and Richard, if America could produce more like the young men who have volunteered to stand on that line between you and bad things and people and who represent these United States in an overwhelmingly exemplary fashion in foreign lands both friendly and hostile, this country would be a better place. Calling them, as a group, “rapists” is not funny, and neither is Bill Maher.
That being said, let’s look at the rest of the comment. As an aside, we do not have to wear the belts on patrol. They are worn on the FOBs, and as such are a symbol of the disconnect between the inside and outside of “the wire.” No one who spends a fair amount of time outside the wire can put one on without feeling silly, nor can they believe that there are “reflective belt nazis” on the FOBs, but there are. We don’t wear them outside the wire, as that is just plain silly.
They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.
Insanity is the inability or refusal to perceive, accept and abide in reality (the truth.) Doing the same thing over and over again is merely a symptom, displaying the inability to understand or accept reality. In order to deal with the insanity, you have to recognize where it came from.
We learned something, about politics and fighting, in our generation. It means, to me, if you’re gonna go, go hard. This fucking around politically, occupying and policing, is not an Armed Forces job. So it’s an automatic cluster fuck when they make you try. Vampire’s got it right, but he’s farting upwind, you wait and see.
We need about 40,000 green berets looking for one criminal, Ozzie B., and the rest can sort itself out. The food and firewood options should be NGOs jobs. Military should be ‘high cover’. There, available, and mostly invisible.
I’m a half-step behind you generationally. My brother served in Vietnam, and I witnessed it. For most of my career, I bought the meme that the military didn’t lose that war, that the American people lost their will and the political machinery lost it. Here is what I have learned; the military did lose the Vietnam War. We never did learn the lessons of counterinsurgency in Vietnam. Now, let’s stay focused; the American Soldier did not lose that war, but his leadership to the highest levels did. Soldiers were not trained in counterinsurgency, but they did the best that they could and fought very hard. They paid the price and they handed it back many fold. There was no lack of bravery, of sacrifice or of personal purpose. There was a huge failure in leadership. We teeter on that brink right now, but we are tipping in the right direction.
Your recipe for counter-terrorism would fail just as surely as the American Military failed in Vietnam, Richard. It is anger and firepower-driven and while it sounds at first take like it’s just common sense, it as far from a successful strategy as one can get. Unfortunately, it still has adherents in the military.
Getting rid of “Ozzie B” is just getting rid of a poster child. It’s like saying that getting rid of Gordon Brown will make all of the Brits just go away.
Invisible military forces would be really handy in making the Afghan people feel secure enough to make decisions that aren’t driven by the need to avoid being a victim of the Taliban need to make an example of them for daring to make a decision of their own; like, say, the decision to let their little girls go to school that day. No, Richard, having 40,000 Special Forces running around would involve, first, training a bunch of new Special Forces. Secondly, it would just tie up 40,000 Green Berets doing things that wouldn’t help solve the long term problem. Do you know how many Afghan National Army units we could train with 40,000 SF?
Here’s an automatic Charlie Fox, Richard; do a job that you aren’t trained for. Just as you weren’t trained for COIN, even if they told you that you were doing it, neither are our young Soldiers. The Marines do a little better than the Army. Our young Sergeants are not trained in it, either. The only ones who have any understanding of it are generally officers, with varying levels of understanding, and Senior NCO’s who take it upon themselves to read and study it on their own and see the applicability of it on the ground. Vampire 6 does have it right… but it’s not because he was put through a stellar course on COIN. He has it right because he has read the books and because when he looks at his situation on the ground what he has read comes to life. He truly is farting upwind, but if enough of us fart upwind, perhaps the wind will change. Nobody’s ever really tried that.
Ideally, Richard, NGO’s and AGO’s (Afghan Government Organizations) are the ones who should be doing the food and firewood deal. It’s men like Vampire 6 who are doing the best that they can do with what they have, and they do what needs to be done when nobody else can or will. That’s COIN on a shoestring, and men like Vampire 6 are why we haven’t failed abjectly. If we had more of them, we’d be more successful. Vampire 6 hasn’t won any fans in his Chain of Command, Richard. His criticisms are undoubtedly on-target. Guys like me get excited to read them because we have seen the same things. He has had the ability to apply his personal readings of COIN to his experience on the ground and he has had the moral courage to point out where we are our own worst enemies.
Richard, we do not need “high cover.” What we need is “ground cover.” If the Taliban can’t openly walk around in the villages, and at night they can’t skulk around dropping off their intimidating notes and threats called “night letters,” then the people of Afghanistan will begin to take breaths of air that smell vaguely of freedom from intimidation. Men like Vampire 6 understand this, and when men like you see it and lobby not just for body armor but for accountability and basing the “success” and career progression of military leaders on the results that matter on the ground, then you will be even more helpful.
If this you feel like I’ve torn into you, Richard, please don’t. You have raised some of the issues that I directly wanted to discuss, and for that I thank you. I understand that some of what you said was meant quite a bit less seriously than I seemed to take it, but these are things that I take very seriously.
Go on over to Blackfive and add a comment for your favorite “unknown” blog. This isn’t like the milbloggies… they are trying to recognize the little guys.
Vampire 6 is doing really well in the nominations. Great blog, great counterinsurgent, great American. I can go with that.
The latest news is that the Taliban have referred to as, “Lunatic” the latest overture to reconcile with “moderate” Taliban. Our old buddy Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman-ever-at-an-undisclosed-location released the latest critical evaluation of the plan to offer reconciliation to “moderate” Taliban.
What would you expect the “official” Taliban position on this to be? Would anyone expect them to hold referendums at their union meetings on who wanted to reconcile? More like the first one who brings it up will get a knife to the throat for his visit from the good idea fairy.
More after the jump…
Now, the reasonable question to ask is, “Just what the hell is a moderate Taliban?” Remember, not all insurgents are deeply committed Taliban. One thing we noted was that a lot of criminal elements with business interests to protect sided with the Taliban and used the brand name to strike terror and cloak themselves in religious legitimacy while still pursuing their criminal enterprises. Others are simply unemployed or underemployed men who hope to someday pay a dowry. In a society with not much dating action, coming up with a bride price weighs heavily on a young man’s mind.
Also, as has been pointed out elsewhere, the Taliban are not going to feel any need to reconcile while they perceive themselves to be “winning.” While they are “winning,” those less than idealistically pure are not only “employed,” they are also securing their future with the next regime. If, and only if, the Coalition and the Afghan Government start to make significant progress, then the veneer will begin to crack.
It is good counterinsurgent strategy to leave the door open to reconciliation. My M-9 pistol carried a 14-1 magazine. Fourteen rounds were for them and one was for me. Surrender was not an option. In the circumstances in which teams like mine operated, getting overwhelmed by a superior force was not hard to imagine. What if my Afghans broke and ran? What if I was wounded and overtaken? One round. As long as I had that one round, I would not be a propaganda tool, beheaded on video for the world to watch on the internet, for I knew that death was the only end result. My ANP may have fared better, but it was hard to tell. They weren’t inclined to give up, either, but for them there was some hope of survival.
I discuss this only to demonstrate that the promise of decent treatment can be an inducement, to someone who is under terrifying pressure, to consider another way out of the pickle in which they find themselves.
If security begins to spread, some of the roughly 80 percent of the populace who don’t want the Taliban in charge will start talking and Taliban and criminals will start to get arrested. That is when the continued calls for reconciliation will start to make some start to think.
Galula pointed out that offering a path to reconciliation is important. It only works when the insurgent is struggling, however. When the government is losing, it just looks desperate. This is the correct policy, but it’s not going to have any effect until the government begins taking back some areas. Galula pointed out, also, that committed insurgents only only negotiate when it is their best interests, one of those times being when they feel they are on the verge of victory, only to lull and distract their enemies with a false sense of hope or to convince the government to fatally weaken itself. I think that this is what the Taliban were doing at the meetings last year, trying to get the Coalition to leave so that the government could be more easily overwhelmed.
But Zabiullah Mujahid is not going to change his song. Taliban “rejection” of reconciliation is not news. It’s just exactly what you would expect them to do. If that song does change, we are most likely in trouble.