TCS Daily


Talking with the Taliban?

By Michael Fumento - June 18, 2007 12:00 AM

It's time to negotiate with the Taliban says Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf. Canada is one of our top Afghanistan allies, so it's meaningful that almost two-thirds of them surveyed in late May think we should parlay with the Taliban. Recently Kurt Beck, the leader of the Social Democratic Party, which shares power in Germany's coalition government, called for talks with "moderate Taliban." Now, in apparent reaction to a perceived high number of civilian deaths caused by the Taliban strategy of hiding among them, the call has come from the Afghan senate for an immediate ceasefire and talks followed by withdrawal of NATO forces.

All of which shows utter ignorance of Taliban beliefs and history.

"Moderate Taliban" is an oxymoron, like referring to a lighter shade of black. The Taliban are defined by their extremism. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, responding to Beck, said "I do not think there is a moderate and 'non-moderate' Taliban. This distinction was invented by somebody who knows nothing about Afghanistan." Agreeing was none other than Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban regime ambassador to Islamabad now under house arrest in Kabul. "There is no separation between Taliban as moderate, hardliner or others," he says.

Then how about simply negotiating with the Taliban period?

To know anything about how this small subset of one ethnic group (the Pashtun) that itself comprises a minority Afghanis conquered 90 percent of the entire country is to know the Taliban didn't do it with military acumen. Most Taliban training, then and now, is religious.

They succeeded through two means: bribes (hence their self-perceived need for Osama bin Laden and his huge purse even in the face of an American attack) and through negotiations. After their initial defeat, the British understood this and used it to essentially control the country.

Negotiation is part and parcel to a warlord society, wherein battles are expensive but talk is cheap. The Taliban negotiate with dual purposes, either to bring over a new warlord whom they keep loyal through payments or to get his followers to lay down their arms and then slaughter them.

Negotiating with the Taliban is like going to dinner with Hannibal Lector. You cannot gain. Musharraf found that out himself just last year when he negotiated a truce recognizing their right to rule much of the border Waziristan region in return for guarantees that they would neither harbor militants nor cross into Afghanistan. He kept his word; they broke theirs instantly.

And what would be offered the Taliban in Afghanistan?

One suggestion is to allow the Taliban an Afghan "mini-state," where they can practice their murderously brand of Sharia Islam. But they already have that. Remember, they now run the show in much of Waziristan and Waziristan and Afghanistan are all one country to them. They started out with an Afghan mini-state in the mid-1990s but their fanatical religious beliefs exclude any form of assimilation, rather dictating that they expand their control to "infidels" throughout the entire country and even beyond. That's why countries like Iran, Turkey, Russia, and most of the Central Asian republics opposed them.

Further, just what part of the Afghan populace are we going to throw to the wolves? Many Pashtun welcomed them in the mid-1990s as an alternative to the terrors of the civil war, but they were far happier when they fled. Which leads to the issue of whether the Upper House even represents the mood of the people. Few people more used to deprivation and early death than the Afghanis.

When I first sat in on a conversation with the Zabul region's Mizan district chief, Mohammad Younis, during my April embed in that Pashtun area, he told us that when American or Afghani soldiers disrupted his peoples' lives with raids "They [the people] blame it on Taliban" for prompting them. I was initially skeptical that he was just saying what we wanted to hear, but over the course of lengthy conversations (the only kind Afghanis have) I realized he was quite straightforward.

Further, a WorldPublicOpinion.org poll released last December showed that merely seven percent of Afghanis have a positive view of the Taliban, down slightly from a survey 11 months earlier. They have not forgotten the horrors of Sharia law.

Yet ultimately we must remember that, as noble as it may sound, we did not invade Afghanistan to liberate the people. They were no more oppressed on September 12th than September 10th. We fought to eliminate the country as a staging ground for attacks by the world's most dangerous terrorist group, al Qaeda. That meant driving out the Taliban and keeping them out. If invited back in any form, they will absolutely guarantee that al Qaeda will not come along and it's absolutely guaranteed they'll be lying. Pervez, in calling for negotiations, said the West should "come and learn from us." We have.

Michael Fumento was embedded in April with U.S and Romanian troops in Afghanistan's Zabul Province.


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26 Comments

Liberals and Death
The left appears ready to trade lives at any turn for so called peace. Talking with the Taliban is like negotiating with a bear who wants to eat you. It is futile. The only solution is to kill these people.

This is utter insanity. Has the West become so fat and weak that they would surrender rather than fight? Does the left actually think they can continue the sloth like life they lead under Islamic rule? Do they plan on converting to Islam rather than die like the cowards they are.

People who "feel" are going to get those of us who "think" killed.

Moderate Taliban
The moderate Taliban are the ones who only want to kill half of us.

Throw out the Marquis of Queensbury rule book - - -
The new NATO is doing great work there, even in spite of Oldeurope cowardice. We should accept Waziristan's and Pakistan's disregard of the Waziristan "border".

Waziristan should become a playground for a US (and NATO, if possible) special forces, air war, and local guerrillas; against the Waziri Taliban, their sympathizers and supporters, in a repris of the original invasion. With the new Afghanistan "army" playing the role of the Northern Alliance.

Let’s stay out of tribal politics.
The current regime in Afghanistan isn’t much better than the Taliban; they’ve backed Sharia law and implemented several measures that are harsh by our standards. The only value of the current regime is that they haven’t invited global terrorists to setup training camps. And that, of course, is our main concern.

I’d let the current regime do as they wish to establish their power with the warning that we’ll be their worse enemy if they allow terrorist training camps.

I’d also stop the war against framing poppies; this just drives farmers into the hands of the Taliban. Either we invade Waziristan and kill the enemy or we let the Afghans handle the problem. But our job is done. We’ve proven our point; let’s local politics take it course … as long as it remains local.

read it again.
The left is not talking to the Taliban. Canada and Germany are foreign contries. They are not the "Left" as commonly used in.

There are those, I am sure, who would talk with the Taliban, but they are not in the ranks of the Liberals. They are Nut Bars, threw and threw.

I am liberal and proud of it. My negotiation with the Taliban would go like this:

Talibal: "We wish to negotiate peace".
TheBigR: "Fine. turn over all your criminals, disarm and then dis-band.".
Taliban: "Sure no problem".
TheBigR: "Oh wait I forgot. You guys lie". *Blamb*

Unusual
Not the lefties I know. They all oppose war at any cost, even capitulation.

Besides, Canada and Germany are pretty left leaning countries.

My, I don't negotiate with terrorist. Look where it got Israel.

Oh I appose the Iraq war, not the Afganistan.
For me its a question of cost.

We are not geting anything for a 1/2 TRILLIAN dollar investment. Expecially sense we have to borry the frigen money. Financually this is just insane.

What's the price of liberty?
The world is getting smaller.

you talk about economics there is a price.
When you talk about liberty there isn't. At some point, economics and cost in human life does become a factor. We the people, are disenchanted with the Iran war and votes will go against it. The current administration can sense it, of course, and are reacting. Attempting to get as much done as possible.

We will pull out soon. It is just costing to much.

How much will an Iranian nuclear tipped missile cost?

Good question. Lets do some math.
Lets assume its a Hiroshima type bomb (We are talking about Fission and not Fusion). About 130,000 where killed and at 1 million per person that 130 billion. There would be about 100-200 billion lost in buildings and land.

This is less then the 500 billion we spent on Iraq. If we invade Iran it would cost far more, then Iraq. Both in men and finances.

It would be far mo affective to bomb Iran's facilities then invade. But, even if we don't Israel will.

It is rather gross to put a cost on human life, but when you look at things economically you have too. Even those lost in 911 where cost evaluated. Its distasteful, but when making policy it must be weighed some how.

Don't forget opporunity costs
How much has been lost by NOT having the WTC available for business? That's in addition to the costs of rebuilding and for former tennents to relocate.

How much would 130,000 souls have contributed to the world?

It would take years for any cleanup and rebuilding. How much was lost during that time?

well yes, the 1,000,000 includes the contribution.
And the cost of the building include the replacement, which of course includes the loss of business.

An economic argument for the war just isn't a winner. The only argument that MIGHT win is an ethical one. But that is a difficult case, because you have to look at lives on both sides.

One small
practical problem. You then destabilize the Musharraf regime. Do you really want the fanatics in control of a country with nuclear weapons?

Not sure
that I've ever on any blog read a more idiotic statement than this:

"It is rather gross to put a cost on human life, but when you look at things economically you have too. Even those lost in 911 where cost evaluated. Its distasteful, but when making policy it must be weighed some how."

By your view, no defense should be offered against any aggressor if the cost of surrender is less than the cost of resistance. Do kindly tell this to the Dutch, the Belgians, the French, the Greeks, the Poles, the Ukrainians, Norwegians and Danes, not to mention a host of Baltic and former Yugoslav nations. Care to guess the response you'd get?

You utter dolt, even the most myopic economist understands than economics is not the sum of all things.

And when the Taliban come back
we'll just have to do it all over again, with even less to work with than this time. Procrastination is NOT an intelligent foreign or military policy.

You do make one very wise suggestion; buy up all the poppy crop.

No ethical value to liberty?

Clearly in those cases it is better to fight.
Even if you just look at it economically. Just think of the cost of the land of a country when occupied.

Before you comment, Iraq was not our land to be occupied, so that cost us nothing.

Now if we took all the oil.... I would go along

The problem here
is that you are seriously confused about the relationship of economics and human existence. World War 2 was not about economics, it was about the desire for revenge on one side meeting a resistance to tyranny on the other. We didn't drive the Germans out of all those countries to economically exploit them, we did it to liberate them.

Most reprehensible of all is your statement

"Now if we took all the oil.... I would go along".

The only worthwhile motive for Iraq was one of liberation. It is a testament to the ineptness of the current administration that they bungled this task so badly by so thoroughly misunderstanding conditions in the country. Your approval however is simply one of piracy.

You claim to be a liberal. There is nothing in the slightest liberal in any of your posts in this thread.

Musharraf is history - - -
Good point to consider, Colin, thanks. The fanatics are but a small fraction of the Paks. In democratic days, they could not get significant parliamentary representation. They are too weak to rule, even if we would let them.

Musharraf has already abandonned Waziristan to save his sorry hide, allowing the Taliban and Al Queida free rein there. If we're going to fight, if had better be to win, fast; not with one, or both, hands tied behind us. In war, our being aggresive and on the offense with our great military is the safest policy. It saves lives in the end, on all sides.

I lean more to the Liberterian side.
When it comes to foriegn affars. I am offering an economic argument. The ethical arguement is not the table.

Like I said, this is not an ethical argument.
Strictly money.

there's more to life than money
any attempt to boil down any argument involving humans to "strictly money" is futile.

No economic advantage to liberty?
So far, states that don't support liberty do not have a good, long term economic track record.

There are few problems
"The fanatics are but a small fraction of the Paks."

True, but they are politically dominant in a few key areas of the country. They also have significant footholds within the country's military and intelligence structure.

"In war, our being aggresive and on the offense with our great military is the safest policy. It saves lives in the end, on all sides."

Also true to an extent, but there's a serious problem with any low intensity war, namely target selection. If they could have found them, the French army in Spain would have wiped out the Spanish guerillas in less than 10 minutes. Instead, the war in Spain dragged on against the world's most powerful military machine of the day, eventually costing Napoleon's France over half a million casualties.

Second, even for great military powers, such an approach can go badly wrong. Germany had exactly the same philosophy in 1914, and it directly led them to outright military disaster. Being slow learners, they had the same idea in 1939, and it led to an even worse disaster.

TIA reference
Colin, there is some hope. See the excerpt from "The Fourth Rail" site below:::

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Al Qaeda Camp struck in North Waziristan, Pakistan

NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; yellow under threat. Click map to view.

32 reported killed in strike launched from Afghanistan; follows news of Taliban, al Qaeda suicide squads graduation

A joint al-Qaeda and Taliban training camp was struck in a missile attack in Pakistan's lawless Northwest Frontier Province. A strike, believed to have been launched by U.S. forces from Afghanistan, hit a train camp in the town of Mami Rogha in the Datta Khel district of North Waziristan. Upwards of 32 Taliban and possibly foreign al Qaeda were killed in the strike on the camp, which is situated about 26 miles west of Miramshah.

"A U.S.

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