Negotiating with Terrorists: When is it Acceptable?

Negotiating with Terrorists: When is it Acceptable?

By Paul-Andre Coulibaly '23; Image by AFP/Getty Press of Taliban fighters celebrating in Kandahar

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the United States has maintained a military presence in Afghanistan to ward off the Taliban from claiming political power in the country. Twenty years later, President Joe Biden abruptly made the decision to pull all American forces from Afghanistan. On August 10th, 2021, the US government claimed a Taliban takeover “is not inevitable” amid the withdrawal of the troops. It only took 11 days for the Afghan government to collapse and lose control to the Taliban. Evacuation efforts to pull Americans out of Afghanistan were effective, but this left millions of Afghans subject to Taliban authority. Joe Biden defended this move and claimed it as a victory, but this decision has been globally recognized as a catastrophe due to the devastating repercussions that followed.

Today, “Afghanistan faces one of the world’s biggest humanitarian crises.” Not only are people facing insecurity, the economy has totally crumbled. The Taliban imposed restrictions on banks to limit individual withdrawals to $200 per week, basically cutting off all cash circulation in the nation. Food prices skyrocketed and supply plummeted as a result. Women are no longer allowed to work or go to school. Millions are suffering from starvation and unable to earn salaries. The majority of foreign aid in Afghanistan has been suspended due to the Taliban infiltration of the government. Nobody wants to fund or negotiate with terrorists. According to Biden, “The war in Afghanistan is now over”, but another war has risen out of its ashes. The people of Afghanistan are fighting to survive and they need help.

Afghanistan was heavily reliant on United States funds and forces before the Taliban takeover. Now, foreign aid has become their only hope for survival. The United States has maintained a policy not to negotiate with terrorists or pay ransoms, but this is an unprecedented circumstance. The reality of the situation is that bypassing the Taliban to provide humanitarian assistance to the people is a great challenge. With full control of the economy and Sharia Law imposed, access to foreign aid is restricted. Former German chancellor Angela Merkel stated that the Taliban must allow access to UN bodies delivering aid and respect human rights, but she also realizes that humanitarian aid cannot be provided in the current state of Afghanistan’s economy. With a global reluctance to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate government, advances in negotiations are slow.

Afghanistan’s geographic location is critical given their shared borders with Iran, Pakistan, and China along with proximity to Russia. Control of this region carries global implications. As the humanitarian crisis evolves, the deprivation in Afghanistan further exposes the population to terrorism. Humanitarian aid is widely agreed to be necessary. However, does the presence of ISIS in the region call for additional military assistance? The death toll in Afghanistan rises every day, applying pressure on global leaders to take action. At what point does the United States serve a moral obligation to re-intervene in Afghanistan?

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