Random posts on all sorts of things designed to inform and provoke.
The New York Times recently reported that Taliban representatives have floated the idea of working with the Afghan government and opposition officials, and adopting “the current American-financed army as their own.” At a meeting in Paris, these representatives stated they would support an amnesty for those who have fought against them, allow the existing security structure to remain functional, retain a majority of the government’s existing institutions, and allow females to continue their education. This news is bound to raise interest because it represents a significant change from the Taliban’s previous policy of opposing anyone who is either directly or remotely connected to any of the above-mentioned entities.
Some may propose that this change has everything to do with the end of NATO’s combat mission – currently scheduled for sometime in 2014. If that is the case then this news should raise additional concerns because if the Taliban become even more entrenched within the Afghan armed forces then they will further weaken an already decrepit institution thereby allowing for its easy takeover. As a result, following NATO’s withdrawal, there won’t be any entity that will be able to prevent the Taliban from retaking Afghanistan.
Another point to consider is the source of this announcement i.e. the individuals who made this proposal. The New York Times’ report states them to be loyalists of Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who is currently jockeying for leadership within the Taliban against the former Guantanamo detainee Mullah Abdul Quyyum Zakir. As is the case with most such detainees, Zakir is a hardliner and would in no way support such a decision. Therefore, while this proposal burnishes Mansour’s moderate credentials, it does in no way signal the approval of the Taliban leadership or the ground commanders despite the senior Taliban official’s announcement that “the shift had the backing of Mullah Omar.”
However, in the general scheme of things, these are minor issues that can be overcome through negotiations and increased funding from the international community. The two big problems that cannot be solved as easily are the attitudes of the Taliban’s ground troops and their basic ideology.
It is relatively easy to come to a conference in Paris and state a willingness to work with former enemies but selling that policy to those who are actually fighting on the ground is an entirely different proposition. Most peace arguments are scuttled because older leaders who make policies do not always reflect the attitude of their younger counterparts. Since there is no evidence that this shift has been sold to those wearing the boots on the ground, their intransigence will likely force the abandonment of this proposal as well.
Overcoming the basic ideology is an even bigger problem. The Taliban representatives continue to insist that the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is a legitimate fact. It is still the legitimate government.” They also remain adamant that all foreign troops and advisors should withdraw from the country – this makes sense since any western presence dilutes their power with the country’s armed forces. Finally, they refuse to negotiate with the current government and this countermands their entire statement of peace and cooperation.
The conclusion, therefore, is that the Taliban want to come back to power and are willing to negotiate with the opposition on some agreement that mandates the complete withdrawal of western personnel. Since there is no credible and strong opposition, and the Afghan security forces are incompetent, the bottom line is that the Taliban want everyone gone so they can take over Afghanistan again.