Leading article: Withdrawal must now be the priority

Share
Related Topics

The future of US relations with Pakistan is one aspect of the fallout from the killing of Osama bin Laden. Speaking yesterday, the country's Prime Minister insistedthat Pakistan was neither complicit norincompetent, and had known as little as anyone about the whereabouts of the head of al-Qa'ida. The intelligence failure, he said, was not specific to Pakistan; it was international.

The truth of that disclaimer remains to be judged. But another equally significant aspect of the fallout from Bin Laden's death is the future of the war in Afghanistan. Bin Laden's links with the Afghan Taliban and the assumption that he was sheltering in the border region with Pakistan lay behind the West's military intervention after the attacks of 9/11. His death in Abbottabad, where he appears to have lived for several years, calls into question the rationale if not for the war itself, then for prolonging it.

Popular though an immediate withdrawal might be with the war-weary public either side of the Atlantic, however, it would be irresponsible just to declare the mission accomplished and leave. This is because the intervention went far beyond the (vain) search for Bin Laden and aimed to eliminate the Taliban as a force ever likely to return to government. A precipitate withdrawal would risk leaving the country in almost as much disorder as it was 10 years ago, with the difference that the Taliban then were in full retreat, whereas now they are returning – most recently, and most spectacularly, to Kandahar.

More realistically, Bin Laden's death offers the West a pretext for altering its priorities, so that talking takes precedence over fighting. Efforts should be made to reinstate the original timetable set by President Obama, with withdrawal to start this July. To that end, talks must be convened urgently between President Karzai's government and Taliban representatives. Until now, moves to include the so-called "moderate" Taliban have had negligible results, if only because of US military misgivings. With al-Qa'ida decapitated, those fears should be subordinated to the imperative of reaching a settlement – as the precursor to a speedy Western withdrawal.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

Retail Business Analyst

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

Senior C++ Developer

£400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
David Cameron addresses No campagn supporters in Aberdeen  

Scottish independence: Cameron faces a choice between destroying his country or his party

Matthew Norman
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week