"The zero option is the Taliban dream option. An abrupt drawdown would pave the way for Taliban to regain influence and cripple the US ability to conduct counter-terrorism missions in the region," Lisa Curtis of The Heritage Foundation said. (Agencies)
"The problem with trying to use the 'zero option' as a bargaining chip is that the Afghans already believe the US will cut and run, similar to the way we turned our backs on them over two decades ago when the Soviets left. Putting this idea out there only confirms what they already believe and fuels hedging behavior," Curtis said on Wednesday.
The zero option discussion stems from tension between the Obama and Karzai administration over the opening of Taliban office in Doha, she said, adding that the US blundered by sending a delegation to Doha to meet with the Taliban leadership without the presence of the Afghan government.
The move seemed to be playing into the hands of the Taliban whose long-sought objective is to cut the Karzai administration out of any talks, she said. "The Taliban also scored a public relations coup by raising the flag associated with its five-year rule in front of the Doha office. The episode angered President Karzai to the point that he pulled out of the Bilateral Security Agreement talks, thus fulfilling the Taliban goal of driving a wedge between the US and Afghan governments," Curtis said.
"Karzai's opposition to the US talking unilaterally with the Taliban is understandable, but his decision to pull out of the BSA talks is like cutting off his nose to spite his face. He himself knows that maintaining an international troop presence post-2014 is essential to the stability of the Afghan state," she said.
Curtis said the Taliban leadership has shown little sign that it is ready to compromise for peace in Afghanistan. They appear to believe they are winning the war in Afghanistan and simply need to wait out US and NATO forces.
Their primary goals for engaging with US officials appear to be to obtain prisoner releases and to encourage the US to speed up its troop withdrawals, she said. Moreover, Taliban has not tamped down violence in order to prepare an environment conducive to talks, she said, arguing that in recent weeks Taliban has stepped up attacks. "All signs indicate they are committed to violence and have no real interest in a participating in a peaceful political process," she added.
"This is not to say that the US should not leave the door open for talks. It is merely to acknowledge that the chances for peaceful political compromise with the Taliban are currently very low," Curtis said.
"The zero option is the Taliban dream option. An abrupt drawdown would pave the way for Taliban to regain influence and cripple the US ability to conduct counter-terrorism missions in the region," Lisa Curtis of The Heritage Foundation said.