Talking with the Taliban, making peace with the guilty
Taliban fighters are pictured after joining Afghan government forces for a ceremony in Ghazni province on January 16.
February 16th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Talking with the Taliban, making peace with the guilty

Editor's note: Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who was appointed by President George W. Bush as CIA director in 2006 and served until February 2009, is a principal with the Chertoff Group, a security consulting firm. He serves on the boards of several defense firms and is a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason University. Hayden is an adviser to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. He held senior staff positions at the Pentagon and, from 1999 to 2005, was director of the National Security Agency.

By Michael V. Hayden - Special to CNN

The recent smartphone video of Marines urinating on the bodies of slain Taliban should trouble all Americans.

It is troubling even if allowances are made for young men - recently released from the high pressures of combat and in the euphoria of being successful and still being alive - doing dumb things. It should trouble us even allowing for the inevitable dehumanization of the enemy that often accompanies conflict.

Keeping the human aspect of an enemy in mind is more than just a moral imperative, though. It makes good operational and strategic sense. And in this, intelligence has a special role.

One of the first briefings I gave President George W. Bush as deputy director of national intelligence was on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the fiendishly brutal head of al Qaeda in Iraq.

I began with Zarqawi's upbringing: "Raised on the mean streets of Zarqa, jailed as a teenager, he turned to religion in prison ..."

I was less trying to humanize him than to understand him, but the effect was largely the same. And even duly "humanized," Zarqawi remained our highest priority target in Iraq until we killed him the next year.

Michael Hayden

Recognizing this human aspect of an enemy takes on even greater significance when a belligerent decides that it's time to negotiate with an adversary, when it's decided (or reluctantly accepted) that you will not be able to simply impose your will on him.

This, by the way, is different than concluding that someone with whom you are still engaged in combat is no longer your enemy, as Vice President Joe Biden recently did when describing the Taliban.

But it does mean that you are willing to recognize that he has legitimate political interests and you are willing to talk about them.

Under any circumstance, talks with the Taliban will be a difficult task. For one thing, the pressure we can bring to bear on our negotiating partner diminishes daily as American troops leave Afghanistan based on an accelerated timetable rather than on battlefield conditions. A recent survey of national security wonks like myself had a full three-quarters of respondents either opposing these talks or saying they are likely to fail.

Read on here.

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Topics: Afghanistan • Taliban

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soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Marine5484

    This bozo who wrote the above is trying to brainwash us into thinking that only the Taliban are guilty. Not true, considering those butchers who operate thse ungodly drones day after day hurling 500 lb. bombs on defenseless people in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Besides, neither the U.S. nor any of it's NATO allies have any right even to be in Afghanistan!!!

    February 16, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Reply
    • Charlie Wilson

      Well put, Marine 5484 and very true too.

      February 16, 2012 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  2. Mr. BO, Current White House Family member

    This is Mr.BO, the Honourable;
    I need some help. Almost Three Years/Three Valentinos passed, without having a Female partner. I would like to take any advice, that could bring my wish, Mrs.BO. They labelled me as Porkcheese, but I don't mind if Mrs.BO background will be from Irish, Haiti, or somewhere.

    Any suggestions, contact my Obama/Boss at the WH.

    Wawee, waweeeee

    February 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Reply
    • S.V.P.YADAV

      Dear sir,My request is first do not blame White House.And I truly said shortly you will have female.

      February 17, 2012 at 6:59 am | Reply
  3. j. von hettlingen

    The Taliban had never attacked the U.S. on American soil, like the Al Qaeda. The Americans got involved with the Taliban when they went to Afghanistan in October 2011. The latter see the former as aggressors and occupiers. Many Afghans believe, peace will return once the foreigners leave. They want to stick to their tribal culture und be left alone. For them democracy is not a priority, but social justice and stability.

    February 16, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Reply
    • George Patton

      Quite true j. von hettlingen, quite true. The foreigners all need to get the you know what out of Afghanistan and soon to!!!

      February 16, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Reply
  4. S.V.P.YADAV

    Respected Gen.Micheal V Hayden Garu,Talibons having veapons, that was coming from U S (world says) and Talibons friend is Pakistan govt(Ladon dead in Pakistan) In this situation you are giving Aid to Pakistan much more.Accrding to this evidence you must stop money transwers to Pakistan and frequently talks,then yu can findout everything.otherwise China is ready to.............

    February 17, 2012 at 6:38 am | Reply
    • Charlie Wilson

      You need to improve your English, S.V.P.YADAV. It's the Taliban, not Talibons as you say. Besides, only a stupid fool would put any credence in what this bozo Hayden says anyway!

      February 17, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Reply
  5. Benedict

    The Taliban are a force that had and continues to be factor in the life of Afghanistan.They are mainly composed of the young and older male species of that country and have shown that they will continue to fight until they get concessions. Unless Gen. Hayden wants the American military to continue fighting a elusive enemy against the back drop of the US's war fatigue,negotiations are the only avenue that will allow all parties to find a common towards the end of this conflict!

    February 18, 2012 at 6:50 am | Reply

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