The influential RAND Corporation published a paper last week offering the US three options on how to approach the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan: Engage, Isolate, or oppose.
Since the US withdrew from Afghanistan at the end of August 2021, the Biden administration has maintained sanctions on the Taliban government and seized billions in Afghan central bank funds, exacerbating a dire humanitarian crisis. According to the UN, 95% of Afghans are not getting enough to eat.
The 28-page paper from RAND said if the US engaged with the Taliban government, known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, it could influence how it conducts counterterrorism operations. The paper says under the engagement policy, the US “would need at some point to be prepared to ease US and UN sanctions.”
The isolation option, the paper says, would “seek to punish and weaken the Taliban regime and change its behavior, while signaling US and broader international disapproval of that regime.” The isolation policy would mean maintaining and strengthening sanctions, which would have a devastating impact on the civilian population.
The paper says that the third option, to oppose the Taliban government, would mean the US “would seek to bring down the Taliban regime.” But the RAND authors recognized that the US doesn’t have the power to take down the Taliban at this point. “Even if it were feasible and would succeed, the US would find itself once again supporting a dependent government in Kabul against local resistance with no better prospects of ultimate success than its last such effort,” the paper says.
The paper concludes that engagement is the best policy for advancing US interests, but that the default and easiest policy for the Biden administration to pursue is isolation. “Isolation offers a pure passive-aggressive strategy, requiring no expenditure of funds or political capital and no controversial initiatives,” the paper reads.
Ultimately, the authors suggest that the US should start taking steps toward engagement. The Biden administration has maintained that engagement with the Taliban and recognition of the Islamic Emirate depends on human rights issues. Specifically, the US has focused on the issue of women’s rights even as Afghan women and children are dying due to malnutrition that the US sanctions and seizure of Afghan central bank assets are contributing to.
5 thoughts on “RAND Offers Three Options for US Taliban Policy: Engage, Isolate or Oppose”
Yep starve them towards the path of glorious freedom
There must be some level of negotiations and engagement in an effort to ease, if not completely remove SANCTIONS, when women and children are dying as a result… “Women’s Rights” don’t help anyone when they have ‘expired’…
Just like what Billie did in Iraq. Same old, same old. Evil, draconian, but so “rules based order”. Riiiiiiight
That one needs the “influential” RAND corporation to tell you that the porridge can be too hot, too cold or just right is pretty stupid. How about the USA “isolate,” but not in a punitive way? As in, stop blocking the funds, and removing sanctions. Why is it any business of the USA what the Taliban does? The central bank funds should be restored because they belong to Afghanistan, and the Taliban is the government of Afghanistan, not because the USA approves of that government. Similarly, unilateral, US-imposed sanctions should be lifted not because the USA approves of the Taliban, but because sanctions should be considered as extraordinary measures (really, unless they are backed by the UN, they shouldn’t exist at all, but leave that aside), measures that need continual justification, rather than there having to be a reason NOT to continue them. As for “engagement,” sure, if it means normal diplomatic relations, consulates and embassies, trade and tourism, and so on. But I see no reason why the USA should even be the “lead” nation when it comes to relief efforts in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a Muslim nation located in Central Asia. Other Muslim and Central Asian nations should be in the forefront here, for cultural as well as logistical reasons. Much the same with “counterterrorism efforts.” Fighting yet another war against the Taliban should not even be a theoretical “option.”
The taking of the savings of Afghan merchants and citizens is theft, pure and simple, also quite illegal under our constitution.
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