Is killing Taliban a good idea?

8 December 2011

Intensified military activity has failed, argue John Braithwaite and Ali Wardak in Inside Story. It’s time for a ceasefire

TEN years ago, a conference in the German city of Bonn agreed on a roadmap – the Bonn Agreement – for the creation of a post-Taliban administration in Afghanistan. Taliban were excluded from participation and subsequent Afghan governments were strongly dominated by Taliban’s former foes. Ten years later, Taliban were once again absent at this week’s second Bonn conference, which was boycotted by Pakistan in protest against an American air strike inside Pakistan that killed twenty-four Pakistani soldiers. All the main speakers emphasised the need for peacemaking with the Taliban.

The reality is that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable. Yet many people in the West still believe that killing Taliban fighters keeps up military pressure that might eventually lead to a negotiated outcome. For their own reasons, the Taliban also see military pressure as sound strategy. Both sides are probably wrong. The escalated military contest is likely to be as unwinnable as the war. The side that reaches this conclusion first and declares a temporary ceasefire – a ceasefire that becomes permanent if the other side reciprocates – will have a considerable advantage. Not only would it be good strategy for the United States or the Taliban to make the first move, it would also be smart for Pakistan to change course and advocate such a move, regardless of who moves first…

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Photo: Ali Wardak

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John Braithwaite, 2011, Is killing Taliban a good idea?, Inside Story, viewed 24 April 2017, <>.

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