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How the Americans can escape the graveyard of empires

18 2 0

NEW YORK - The problems in Afghanistan often feel intractable, like a knot of countless ropes bound together. Every time a strand is pulled, another part of the knot tightens up. Currently, the Taliban refuse to have talks with the Afghan government, which they label a puppet regime; the Kabul government insists that any power-sharing agreement allow limited numbers of Western troops to remain; the Pakistanis, who have long sheltered Taliban leaders, are unwilling to fully encourage a peace settlement; the United States and its NATO partners are sick of war and want out; the Russians play a complex double game, sometimes encouraging the Taliban and other times working with the government; and India and China covet the rare-earth metals and other minerals under the dry soil — perhaps $2 trillion worth.

But there are also some distinct signs of progress, due largely to Zalmay Khalilzad, who last year took over as the U.S. special representative to the reconciliation process. I know Zal well, and as the saying goes, if he didn’t exist we’d have to invent him. He was born in Afghanistan, received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and has served as a U.S. ambassador three times (to the United Nations, Afghanistan and Iraq). Khalilzad is a highly creative thinker and diplomat.

He has moved the situation to a serious........

© The Japan Times