Vali Nasr has an article in Foreign Policy (an excerpt from his book) about his time in the State Department, titled “The Inside Story of How the White House Let Diplomacy Fail in Afghanistan”. Nothing particularly revelatory, but it’s always good to hear what we already knew from someone on “the inside”. Some excerpts (the parts I found most relevant):
[W]e should not kid ourselves that the rhetoric of departure is anything more than rhetoric; the United States is taking home its troops and winding down diplomatic and economic engagement — but leaving behind its Predators and Special Forces. We should not expect that the region will look more kindly on drone attacks and secret raids than it did on invasion and occupation.
…[T]he Obama administration’s first AfPak disaster: the torturously long 2009 strategic review…. During the review … there was no discussion at all of diplomacy and a political settlement. Holbrooke wanted the president to consider this option, but the White House was not buying it. The military wanted to stay in charge, and going against the military would make the president look weak.
…The Taliban were ready for talks as early as April 2009. At that time, Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin, shortly before he joined Holbrooke’s team as his senior Afghan-affairs advisor, traveled to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. In Kabul Rubin met with former Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, who laid out in detail a strategy for talks: where to start, what to discuss, and the shape of the settlement that the United States and the Taliban could agree on. Zaeef said the Taliban needed concessions on prisoners America held at Guantánamo Bay and removal of the names of some Taliban from U.S. and U.N. blacklists sanctioning terrorists.… [T]he White House had systematically blocked every attempt to include reconciliation talks with the Taliban and serious regional diplomacy (which had to include Iran)….
IN OCTOBER 2010, during a visit to the White House, [Pakistani] General Kayani gave Obama a 13-page white paper he had written to explain his views on the outstanding strategic issues between Pakistan and the United States…. Kayani’s counsel was that if you want to leave, just leave — we didn’t believe you were going to stay anyway — but don’t do any more damage on your way out. This seemed to be a ubiquitous sentiment across the region.
…America has not won this war on the battlefield, nor has the country ended it at the negotiating table. America is just washing its hands of this war. We may hope that the Afghan army the United States is building will hold out longer than the one that the Soviet Union built, but even that may not come to pass. Very likely, the Taliban will win Afghanistan again, and this long, costly war will have been for naught.