Taliban and the present Afghan government

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For more information, see: Taliban.
See also: Taliban in Pakistan

After the military defeat of Taliban governments, especially in Kandahar and Kabul, the survivors, including many senior leaders, turned to guerrilla warfare in Afghanistan, or took up sanctuaries in the border areas of Pakistan. The Quetta shura, a fairly overt Afghan Taliban council (shura) meets in Quetta in Taliban's Balochistan Province. This Afghan-oriented Taliban is separate from indigenous Taliban organizations trying to take control of all or part of Pakistan, but those groups accept some, if no more than spiritual, leadership from the Quetta Shura.

There have been varying discussions, aimed at ending the Afghanistan War (2001-), which would involve bringing some Taliban elements into the national government. Former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who had been the Northern Alliance president ousted by the Taliban, said there have been talks with the Taliban. In May 2008, a Taliban response had changed slightly from earlier positions when they explicitly rejected the Karzai government; they simply did not mention it. [1]

In September 2008, Karzai asked for Saudi help in promoting talks with the Taliban. While he appealed to the Taliban, an anonymous former Taliban source told CBS News that they did not consider him a strong leader with whom they should negotiate. [2]

Warfare continues in Afghanistan, and the security situation has been getting worse; it is no longer safe to drive between Kabul and Kandahar. Unquestionably, Taliban units still are in active combat with Western forces and the Afghan government. Groups identifying as Taliban are attacking coalition forces, but, as with the forces under Mula Birather, they are made up of alliances among Taliban military groups in Afghanistan. [3]

While the Obama Administration has made Afghanistan the focus of new large-scale efforts against terrorism, John Mueller, Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University, argues that the Taliban reluctantly provided a home al Qaeda in the 1990s, which violated agreements to refrain from issuing inflammatory statements and fomenting violence abroad, and then, with the 9-11 attacks where the Taliban had no official role, brought down the Taliban government. "Given the Taliban’s limited interest in issues outside the "AfPak" region, if they came to power again now, they would be highly unlikely to host provocative terrorist groups whose actions could lead to another outside intervention."[4]

The Administration has suggested reaching out to "moderate Taliban." While Afghan President Hamid Karzai welcomed the idea, others were dubious. Some analysts suggest no such thing exists outside fantasy. "Obama's comment resemble a dream more than reality," "Where are the so-called moderate Taliban? Who are the moderate Taliban?" said Waheed Mozhdah, an official in both the Taliban and the Karzai governments.[1] A different Taliban said this could not work in the presence of a planned troop surge. Mullah Abdul Salem Zaeef, who spent nearly four years in Guantanamo Bay detention camp, said a mostly American surge
...was likely to act as a magnet to foreign fighters...All the people were optimistic when Obama became president. I was a little optimistic that he would stop the war, but when he declared the strategy, especially sending more troops and sending a military man as the ambassador, these strategies are war strategies, not a peace strategy and it's increasing the problem..."The Saudis wanted to be the interpreter between the Taliban and the government and they did something, but increasing more troops is destroying this process...The problem is not between Taliban and Afghans, everything is possible by Afghans. The Taliban are sitting with them, I know that, they respect each other." [5]

Factions hostile to the government

At the head of the list of Taliban hardliners is Mullah Mohammed Omar, for whom the U.S. offers a USD $10 million reward. Others include his aide Mohammed Tayyib Agha and spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, Taliban Defense Minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, as well as former Taliban Justice Minister Mullah Nooruddin Turabi. Turabi directed the religious police.[6] Not all the Afghan leaders considered hostile are members of the Taliban, such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, although they may cooperate with the movement.

Non-Taliban power blocs

Not all opposition to the Karzai government are Taliban, although some are allied with it. Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban, has met with both Taliban and non-Taliban opposition.[6]

Former Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who has his own fighting faction now working with the Taliban, has had representatives meeting with the government since 2008, beginning in Dubai and now with President Karzai in Kabul. Like Taliban leaders, there is a bounty on Hekmatyar, whose representatives met, in Dubai, with the government. Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin has been meeting with the government, in Kabul, in 2010. They presented a 15-point plan that includes the beginning of Western troop withdrawal in July 2010 with complete withdrawal in six months, although there is flexibility, according to a delegation member, Qaribur Rahman Saeed. "The draft plan may will be reformed. We are flexible. We want this process to continue and saw that feeling on the part of the government too. We are sure that there is sincerity on both sides,"[7]

Rahmani, a former Taliban minister and t mediator between the Taliban and the government also said he was in contact with Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani, who served as Chief of Army Staff as well as Minister of Borders and Tribal Affairs in Mullah Omar's government, as well as the Taliban military leader in southern Afghanistan.[6]

Less productive have been meetings with the Haqqani Network. “We’ve no moderate to hold talks with the Americans.”, yet the Taliban have had discussions with "sincere" people in the Karzai government. He denied there had been Saudi Arabia-sponsored peace negotiations between them and the US. Dismissing talks with the U.S. as propaganda, he said there was no point in talking when the Taliban had the upper hand on the battlefield, and “We cannot go outside Afghanistan to participate in any talks, as we face difficulties in our movement. In case of any talks, we send fifth or sixth-rank leadership to negotiate,” [8]

Xinhua describes Sirajuddin Haqqani as "a close aide to Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar and has been leading Taliban fighters in east Afghanistan". [9] Reuters said there were two raids against his forces in Khost Province [10]On September 8, U.S. armed drones fired missiles at a house and school the elder Haqqani founded in Pakistan, killing 23, of whom several were his relatives. Reuters said he is "considered close to Osama bin Laden. The ailing Taliban commander was in Afghanistan along with his son Sirajuddin, who has been leading the group, at the time of the attack, another son said." A day later, a second raid captured weapons and detained two persons suspected of planting bombs.

Possible Taliban moderates

One suggested moderate is Maulavi Mohammad Qasim Halimi, Chief of Protocol under Mullah Omar, who was held in Bagram Prison for over a year, and who first met Halimi in 2001, before the collapse of the Taliban. In the Karzai government, he is chief of the administration branch of the Supreme Court,[11] and is a deputy to Afghan Chief Justice, Dr. Abdul Salam Azimi.

Halimi had given up wearing the black Pakul mujahedeen turban and had trimmed, but did not shave, his beard; he is freer to move than other former Taliban who work with the government. He also is in touch with other former Taliban, such as former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Muttawakil and Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban Ambassador to Afghanistan; they spent time in the same prisons, [6] both of whom have experience in working with other cultures. Zaeef has spoken of Taliban solidarity, but a Western diplomat said his claims of Taliban unity were "wishful thinking". He said: "There is plenty of empirical evidence that the insurgents are pulled in different directions and not all are prepared to drag the country into perpetual war."[5]

Hashemi, who had indeed tried to define the Taliban internationally, has spoken, in Western interviews. At the time, he defended the destruction of the Buddhas, although he has since said he personally regretted it. In 2006, he was a non-degree student at Yale. A professor of political science, Seyla Benhabib, said, in a telephone interview, he is not an ideological zealot. "How fortuitous it was that at the age of 18, because he knew languages," but worked as a translator, at various times, for the Taliban and UNICEF. [12]

Hashemi told Western interviewers said that he had faith in Western democracy, and believed in women's right to education and vote. "He pointed out that many Westerners have a misconception with regards to the Taliban movement, which some describe as a fundamentalist movement, yet there are those within it, such as former Foreign Minister Wakil Muttawakil who have moderate ideas, and who call for disarmament."[6]