Vice President Biden: The Taliban Is Not Our Enemy

The Daily Beast today published an interview conducted with Vice President Joe Biden last week, in which he offered some deep thoughts about our new partners in peace, the Taliban:

We’re engaged in a reconciliation process. Whether it will work or not is another question. But we are in a position where if Afghanistan ceased and desisted from being a haven for people who do damage and have as a target the United States of America and their allies, that’s good enough. That’s good enough. We’re not there yet.

Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy. That’s critical. There is not a single statement that the president has ever made in any of our policy assertions that the Taliban is our enemy because it threatens U.S. interests. If, in fact, the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us. So there’s a dual track here:

One, continue to keep the pressure on al Qaeda and continue to diminish them. Two, put the government in a position where they can be strong enough that they can negotiate with and not be overthrown by the Taliban. And at the same time try to get the Taliban to move in the direction to see to it that they, through reconciliation, commit not to be engaged with al Qaeda or any other organization that they would harbor to do damage to us and our allies.

(Emphases mine.)  That’s a concise lesson in how to lose a war: refuse to even identify the enemy.  The Taliban, for their part, don’t seem to have any trouble pegging us as their enemy.  And once they’re back in charge of Afghanistan, what’s the genius Biden plan for nudging them in a “direction where they commit not to be engaged with al-Qaeda?”  Bear in mind that he just explicitly stated that Taliban success in collapsing the Afghan government would “become a problem” for us, but presumably still would not make them an “enemy.”  When only one side in a conflict still believes it’s fighting an enemy, they have a significant advantage.

The Blaze notes that even as Biden was declaring the Taliban a non-enemy, Congress was passing a bill that specifically identifies them as an enemy organization for the purposes of determining detainee status.

The Daily Beast interview was conducted, in conjunction with Newsweek, by Leslie Gelb.  Gelb was involved in crafting Biden’s plan to divide Iraq into three nations for the Kurds, Sunni, and Shiia.  You don’t hear much about that plan nowadays, since the Administration has been busy taking credit for a unified Iraq, but back in 2006, Biden and Gelb co-authored a New York Times op-ed in which they said, “Mr. Bush has spent three years in a futile effort to establish a strong central government in Baghdad, leaving us without a real political settlement, with a deteriorating security situation – and with nothing but the most difficult policy choices.”  History repeats itself.