Monday, December 7, 2009

Yes, Minister Mullah Omar?

I just attended a "Tea and Conversation" event on campus hosted by the LSE Afghanistan Development Society (of which, I am a member). A woman who works with Amnesty International for Women's Rights was the speaker, but the conversation covered most aspects of modern Afghanistan. The most insightful comment came at the end:

She said that the United States' policy of opening the possibility of negotiating with the Taliban is undermining the fight against the Taliban and hurting the Afghan populace.

Imagine this: you are an Afghan farmer in Kandahar. The US just said that they might bring the Taliban into the political process, yet they are fighting the Taliban at the same time. So, you must make a choice. Either remain passive to the Taliban now, or rise up against them. The US is looking for you to rise up against the Taliban. However, what if the Taliban become part of the government and the man who you were fighting against is now the governor? Historical amnesia is a rarity.

Should you remain passive, you and your family are subjected to the horrors that are associated with Taliban rule, namely, nearly zero women's rights, a radically strict interpretation of Sharia law (ban on music, dancing, and just about anything that impedes a strict observance of Wahhab Islam), and a flourishing opium trade to name but a few.

It is a no win situation. Either be an enemy of the Taliban now and suffer, and, if the US introduces the Taliban into the system, be remembered as the enemy of the current governor; or remain passive, further strengthening the Taliban and giving them the edge they need to take power forcefully. Or join the Taliban (or at least passively support them), and become the target of NATO bombs.

Despite what think tanks produce, bringing terrorist organizations into the political process is not always a good way of moderating their views, it seems. Or, if you'll allow me to contradict myself, perhaps the situation I just described is a necessary transition in order to bring the Taliban into the government, and then, if they want to have a chance in hell of getting any of their goals achieved, they would have to moderate their views.

The Great Game never ended.

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