Ex-NATO Commander Urges U.S. to Negotiate With Taliban

A former NATO supreme allied commander for Europe has voiced support for the U.S. entering negotiations with the Taliban, despite how “distasteful” the talks might seem to some.

On Monday, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed that representatives from Afghanistan and the U.S. had met in Qatar for a two-day round of negotiations, the first since the Taliban’s return to power. The talks involved the discussion of “confidence-building measures,” according to Al Jazeera. These included “the lifting of sanctions and travel bans as well as the return of Afghan central bank assets held abroad,” as well as human rights issues and combating the narcotics trade.

Founded as an Islamic fundamentalist group, the Taliban has controlled Afghanistan’s government since U.S. forces exited the country in August 2021. Despite its initial promises to embrace modern forms of governance, the extremist group’s time in power has been marked by a consistent curtailing of rights for women and girls, including banning them from holding most jobs, receiving education and traveling without male guardians, among other activities.

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James Stavridis, NATO’s former supreme allied commander Europe, moderates a panel talk at the 2018 Munich Security Conference on February 16, 2018. He voiced support this week for new U.S. negotiations with Afghanistan’s Taliban.
Sebastian Widmann/Getty

Following the news, James Stavridis, who served in the U.S. Navy for nearly 40 years and was a NATO allied commander from 2009 to 2013, took to Twitter to voice his support for the negotiations, despite the need for progress on such matters as women’s rights and getting Afghans who supported the U.S. military involvement safely out of the country.

“As distasteful [as] the Taliban are, U.S. is smart to negotiate,” Stavridis tweeted. “Hopefully we can help the situation of women & girls there. Also important to continue to work to get remaining Afghans who supported US efforts out safely. To do both those things we must engage.”

The State Department confirmed the talks with the Taliban in a statement and noted its willingness to engage in continued negotiations about economic stability and the state of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

Newsweek reached out to the State Department via email for further comment.

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Armed Taliban fighters parade atop Humvee vehicles in Kabul on August 31, 2022, as they celebrate the first anniversary of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty

Since the Taliban took control in 2021, no nation has formally recognized the group as Afghanistan’s rulers. Numerous nations, including Muslim-majority countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia, have condemned the Taliban for their restrictions on women’s rights and imposed severe economic sanctions against them.

The Taliban’s time in power has also been marked by widespread food insecurity in Afghanistan. Around 23 million residents, nearly half of the country’s population, have received aid from the United Nations’ World Food Program.