New York Times reporter Alissa Rubin, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her work covering Kabul, looks back on the Bush Administration's refusal to entertain a deal with the Taliban in 2001:
“The Taliban were completely defeated, they had no demands, except amnesty,” recalled Barnett Rubin, who worked with the United Nations’ political team in Afghanistan at the time.
Messengers shuttled back and forth between [Hamid] Karzai and the headquarters of the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, in Kandahar. Mr. Karzai envisioned a Taliban surrender that would keep the militants from playing any significant role in the country’s future.
But Washington, confident that the Taliban would be wiped out forever, was in no mood for a deal.
Almost 20 years later, the United States did negotiate a deal to end the Afghan war, but the balance of power was entirely different by then — it favored the Taliban.
“When I heard the U.S. were going to meet in Doha with the Taliban and without the Afghan government, I said, ‘That’s not a peace negotiation, those are surrender talks,’” said Ryan Crocker, a former ambassador to Afghanistan.
“So, now the talks were all about us retreating without the Taliban shooting at us as we went,” Mr. Crocker added, “and we got nothing in return.”
As Winston Churchill once said, "Meeting jaw to jaw is better than war." If only we'd listened.