After Two Decades of Fighting Taliban, U.S. Is Uneasy Partners With Them

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Americans person described a necessary, if distasteful, moving statement arsenic they contention to evacuate Afghanistan by Aug. 31.

“No 1  trusts them,” President Biden said of the Taliban connected  Thursday successful  remarks astatine  the White House. “We’re conscionable  counting connected  their self-interest to proceed  to make  their activities.”
Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Michael D. ShearJulian E. Barnes

Published Aug. 27, 2021Updated Aug. 28, 2021, 1:53 a.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Two decades ago, President George W. Bush denounced the Taliban for “aiding and abetting murder” aft the violent attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, arsenic President Biden ends the warfare Mr. Bush started, the United States is locked successful an uneasy concern with that precise force force, relying connected the Taliban to assistance safeguard American citizens and their Afghan allies arsenic they contention to evacuate the country.

It is an improbable battlefield relationship: Diplomats, spies and subject officials for the United States are having cooperative discussions with their Taliban counterparts, arsenic the radical serves arsenic America’s archetypal enactment of defence astatine the airdrome successful Kabul, the Afghan capital, screening passengers for documents and weapons.

That narration appears to person failed spectacularly connected Thursday, American subject officials said, erstwhile rival terrorists managed to walk done Taliban checkpoints astir the airdrome and set disconnected a termination bomb that killed 13 American troops and scores of Afghan civilians.

The grim incidental — and the warnings by medication officials that much attacks are possible, adjacent likely, successful the days up — underscores the precarious presumption that Mr. Biden finds himself successful aft overruling his subject advisers successful the outpouring and ordering a full withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan by the extremity of August.

Mr. Biden has received wide disapproval for his handling of the withdrawal, adjacent from galore Democrats. Republicans who eagerly supported President Donald J. Trump’s months of negotiations with the Taliban are present savaging Mr. Biden for leaning connected the caller rulers of the country. But erstwhile the Taliban toppled the Afghan authorities connected Aug. 15, the imperative was set, according to Mr. Biden and his apical generals. During the past 10 days, they person described a necessary, if distasteful, moving arrangement.

“No 1 trusts them,” Mr. Biden said Thursday evening arsenic helium denounced the violent onslaught by ISIS-K, an Islamic State affiliate and a rival to the Taliban. “We’re conscionable counting connected their self-interest to proceed to make their activities. And it’s successful their self-interest that we permission erstwhile we said and that we get arsenic galore radical retired arsenic we can.”

Contact betwixt the United States and the Taliban, the force successful a warfare that took the lives of much than 2,400 American troops, is not unprecedented.

President Barack Obama approved talks with the Taliban successful 2010 to escaped Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American worker who was captured by the radical the twelvemonth before.

During the Trump administration, the United States sought nonstop bid talks with the Taliban successful hopes of ending the conflict. Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born erstwhile U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, was brought successful to pb the negotiations, which slogged connected for astir 2 years successful the Qatari capital, Doha.

At 1 constituent successful 2019, the talks appeared truthful adjacent to occurrence that Mr. Trump sought to bring the Taliban to the statesmanlike retreat astatine Camp David for a triumph announcement. The travel was rapidly scuttled by a termination bombing by the Taliban successful Kabul that killed 12 people, including an American soldier.

Officials moving for Mr. Trump chopped a woody with the Taliban enactment past twelvemonth to extremity America’s beingness successful Afghanistan by May 1, a deadline Mr. Biden pushed backmost until Aug. 31.

U.S. officials connected Friday angrily denied reports that they had handed implicit to the Taliban lists of susceptible Afghans who were trying to marque it to the airport. One U.S. authoritative said Taliban fighters astatine checkpoints were allowed to reappraisal manifests arsenic buses approached the group’s cordon, but not to support the lists.

Thursday night, adjacent arsenic they continued to enactment with the Taliban aft the airdrome attack, 2 U.S. officials said the C.I.A. blew up Eagle Base, a tract connected the outskirts of Kabul utilized passim the warfare to bid Afghan counterterrorism forces, to support it retired of the group’s hands. The cognition was a earthy illustration of however analyzable the narration is betwixt the United States and the Taliban.


Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

The Biden medication initially had nary volition of moving with the Taliban during the evacuation this month, according to American officials briefed connected the plan.

When the archetypal of the astir 6,000 troops that Mr. Biden authorized started arriving successful Kabul this month, subject commanders believed they would beryllium moving with the Afghan government’s information forces to assistance ferry Americans and others to safety. But by Aug. 15, erstwhile the Taliban swept into Kabul and President Ashraf Ghani fled the city, his information forces ceased to function.

That day, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., a Marine who leads U.S. Central Command, met with Taliban leaders, telling them not to interfere with the evacuation. Taliban officials told General McKenzie that information was deteriorating successful Kabul, and that they had to enactment swiftly to unafraid the city.

At that meeting, the Taliban offered to acceptable up a liaison strategy to sermon information matters, according to a U.S. authoritative briefed connected the meeting.

During the past 2 weeks, determination person been periodic conversations betwixt the Taliban authoritative successful complaint of information successful Kabul and American subject commanders, including Rear Adm. Peter G. Vasely. Those conversations bespeak a pragmatic narration of necessity, the U.S. authoritative said. The subject conversations were tactical conversations and are not expected to proceed past the extremity of the evacuation ngo connected Aug. 31, the authoritative added.

Thomas Joscelyn, who has tracked the details of the Afghanistan warfare astatine the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, said specified tactical discussions were astir apt necessary.

Understand the Taliban Takeover successful Afghanistan

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Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose successful 1994 amid the turmoil that came aft the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan successful 1989. They utilized brutal nationalist punishments, including floggings, amputations and wide executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s much connected their root communicative and their grounds arsenic rulers.

“There’s a definite magnitude of tactical talking that needs to beryllium done present due to the fact that they’re look to face, and determination needs to beryllium immoderate tactical deconfliction,” helium said.

After the bombing connected Thursday, General McKenzie said the U.S. subject had asked the Taliban to marque adjustments to their information cordon and to adjacent circumstantial roads that the United States had identified arsenic sources of threats.

“We’re doing everything we tin to beryllium prepared for those attacks. That includes reaching retired to the Taliban,” helium said. “And we volition proceed to coordinate with them arsenic they spell forward.”

American officials inactive judge they tin trust connected the Taliban to halt attacks from the Islamic State oregon different violent groups, with crisp limits that were demonstrated this week. The Taliban enactment and Islamic State are enemies who person repeatedly battled wrong Afghanistan.

But adjacent earlier the bombing that killed dozens, U.S. officials said the wide merchandise of prisoners that the Taliban allowed arsenic they took implicit the state was a wide motion that the Taliban would enactment successful unreliable ways, allowing developments that could endanger the United States.

Once the evacuation is complete, overmuch of the regular connection with the Taliban could autumn to the C.I.A. The spy bureau is fixed the task of dealing with unsavory partners and governments astir the world. The C.I.A. acts covertly, truthful its discussions with the Taliban tin beryllium much easy shielded from nationalist view.

The agency’s highest-profile diplomatic foray, the Monday sojourn to Kabul by its director, William J. Burns, could beryllium the opening of a bid of engagements implicit the coming years. But however overmuch the C.I.A. talks to and cooperates with the Taliban volition astir apt beryllium connected their behavior. If the Taliban let strikes against Islamic State and Qaeda targets, and supply accusation astir processing violent cells, the U.S. authorities is much apt to cooperate with them, officials said.


Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

The grade of that practice whitethorn besides beryllium connected whether Mr. Biden finds immoderate enactment for that attack connected Capitol Hill.

Mr. Biden has received withering disapproval from apical Democrats, who person pledged to usage their committee gavels to question a afloat accounting of what went wrong. Republicans, meanwhile, person struggled to find a coherent criticism.

In the House, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, ridiculed Mr. Biden connected Friday arsenic “a representation of weakness and incompetence.” But that disapproval came aft a dizzying bid of contradictory statements, including his assertions that the United States should person nary troops successful Afghanistan but should person held onto Bagram Air Base — which would person required much troops.

Asked whether Mr. Biden and his squad are frustrated by the request to trust connected the Taliban, Jen Psaki, the White House property secretary, said Friday that the medication was focused connected finishing its mission.

“There’s conscionable not a batch of clip for self-reflection close now,” she said.

Catie Edmondson and Lara Jakes contributed reporting.

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