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By Ashley J Tellis; United States. President (2009- : Obama); Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

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40 Reconciling With the Taliban? | Ashley J. Tellis Although Afghanistan is no longer a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, it would quickly become one again were the Taliban to return to power in the face of either an American defeat or a retrenchment of its military efforts. Conclusively overcoming American adversaries in this theater would, therefore, not only be an investment in protecting its own homeland, it would also deal a tremendous psychological blow to radical Islamists worldwide intent on threatening the United States.

We cannot afford to pursue goals, however worthy, that contradict or undermine it. 37 The limitations of this argument should be obvious: even if the conclusive defeat of al-Qaeda and its allies could actually be orchestrated in the absence of a minimally effective Afghan state—and this is a big if to begin with—achieving this more restricted goal does not guarantee that successor entities to al-Qaeda and its associates will not arise and attempt to use the stateless spaces within Afghanistan to mount exactly the same kinds of attacks previously mounted by Osama Bin Laden’s cohort.

If what comes out of Washington in regard to financial resources, troop commitments, and diplomatic attention over the next several years is hesitation, a diminution of responsibility, a competitive wrangling between the branches of government, or anything that suggests preparation for an exit, the critical constituencies whose cooperation will be necessary to defeat the Taliban will draw the conclusion that it is not worth supporting what will eventually be the losing side, thereby making NATO’s struggle against the insurgency all the harder.

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