Secretary Clinton said today that she and the U.S. government support reintegration and reconciliation with Taliban members who meet specific criteria. We are "willing to support what's called reintegration -- namely, people on the battlefield coming off and going back into their society -- and reconciliation, which is a much more political process to work out terms of peace with people who [have] led the Taliban, but only on very clear conditions," she told ABC's Robin Roberts during an interview in Brussels, where she attended a NATO ministerial meeting.
Those "clear conditions" are:
- Renouncing violence and laying down arms.
- Renouncing al Qaeda.
- Abiding by Afghan laws and the Afghan Constitution.
Clinton was cautious with her remarks and said she's unsure how many Taliban leaders would agree to these conditions. In fact she said, "I think it's highly unlikely that the leadership of the Taliban that refused to turn over bin Laden in 2001 will ever reconcile. But stranger things have happened in the history of war, but it can only happen if they [are] willing to abide by the red lines that we and the Afghan government have established."
Other the other hand, Clinton sounded somewhat optimistic about lower-level Taliban members who likely joined in the first place just to get a paycheck. "I am increasingly convinced that many of the lower-level Taliban, young men who frankly went to fight for the Taliban because they got paid more than they could make anywhere else -- I believe that they are, in increasing numbers, laying down their arms and coming back into society."
She also told Roberts, "What we are seeing is a move by the lower-level fighters, many of them, to leave the battlefield, which is all to the good because they are being convinced that this fight is no longer one they want to be part of."
Anything about the Taliban joining peace talks or becoming part of the Afghan government will make most Americans nervous. Anyone can pay mere lip service to meeting the three "red line" conditions listed above; how do you tell whether someone isn't surreptitiously supporting violence and al Qaeda on the side? I also wish Clinton had reiterated that no political reconciliation should come at the price of Afghanistan's women -- which is one of the scariest things about involving the Taliban in peace talks and the government. Back in July during her visit to Kabul, Clinton made it starkly clear that Afghan women can't be marginalized in the reconciliation process, saying:
I don't think there is such a political solution that would be a lasting, sustainable one that would turn the clock back on women. That is a recipe for a return to the kind of Afghanistan -- if not in the entire country, in significant parts of the country -- that would once again be a breeding ground for terrorism. So we've got our red lines, and they are very clear: Any reconciliation process that the United States supports, recognizing that this is an Afghan-led process, must require that anyone who wishes to rejoin society and the political system must lay down their weapons and end violence, renounce al Qaeda, and be committed to the Constitution and laws of Afghanistan, which guarantee the rights of women.
Below is an edited video of today's interview:
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images