Originally published in March 2012
Potential negotiations between the Afghan government and representatives of the Taliban have stirred ever increasing international interest during the last two months. Pundits the world over have voiced myriad assessments of the morality of such talks, the possible agenda of the negotiations, and the potential outcomes. Many have argued that talking to terrorists is inherently a bad idea, fearing that negotiations would legitimise terrorist groups, their goals, and their means. Others have speculated that the US and the Taliban would agree neither on fundamental political concerns – such as the Taliban’s renunciation of international terrorism and their support of a peace process – nor on normative issues – such as human rights and other social norms. On the whole, opinions on the prospects and dangers of negotiations differ widely, and evaluations of possible conclusions range from emphasising their necessity for establishing peace in Afghanistan to voicing concern about the return to Taliban rule in the country. Despite this variety in assessments, a fundamental difficulty of talks with the Taliban has been neglected: Even successful negotiations may not be enough to have a positive impact on the country.