Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gathering opposition against making a deal with the Taliban.

Rob Taylor of Reuters tells us that a significant movement to prepare for war is forming for fear that the Taliban will be let back in.  Recently I was told that most of the Pushtuns that a contact of mine from Jalalabad has are pro-Taliban.  Not that they like the Taliban but they distrust the government and so lean to the Taliban; they think they will last longest.  Taylor now says the non-Pushtuns of the north and west are unwilling to allow the Taliban back into government.  What does that spell?  A dangerous mix of old grudges and opposing coalitions similar to the days of the late 1990s:  Northern Alliance versus the Taliban.  Only now, more than one observer predicts that if a civil war develops it will be even more terrible than ever for the civilians and the destruction of the only world they know.  Here are some of the statements from the article about an interview with Afghanistan's former spy chief, Amrullah Saleh, plus a few  comments on implications that may not be obvious to the uninformed reader.  [Click on my title above for a link to the source.]
Former Afghan spy chief chafes at peace talks Reuters 6:34am ESTBy Rob Taylor
Amrullah Saleh said ethnic groups coalescing towards a more unified opposition were prepared to fight to prevent a return of Taliban militancy."We want the state to remain pluralistic, not bow to the barrel of a gun," Saleh, a former head of Afghanistan's intelligence service and now a political opposition activist, told Reuters at his heavily-guarded Kabul home.
"If the Taliban, like us, want to come and play according to the script, sure. But if they come with gun-mounted Hi-Lux trucks, no, that means continuation of civil war, of war, and fragmentation of Afghanistan," he said.Saleh's message is likely to strike a chord with many Afghans who feel sidelined by U.S.-initiated negotiations, despite Karzai's belated insistence on control of the process and determination they be Afghan-led. .  .  .
Other ethnic power brokers are also circling each other including Uzbek general Abdul Rashid Dostum and prominent Hazara leader Mohammad Mohaqiq, eyeing a possible common front. .  .  .
Note that these are the main elements of the Northern Alliance who were fighting the Taliban when the Americans joined them to crush the Taliban in October of 2001.  That war had powerful ethnic associations, as the Taliban are almost entirely Pushtuns from the south and east whereas the Alliance was composed of what was then called "Dari-speakers": Uzbeks, Hazaras and Tajiks -- Saleh's ethnic group.   
But Saleh, a strident critic of Karzai's centralized rule and efforts to reach out to the Taliban, said he did not believe the hardline Islamists would ever accept an Afghan government they had implacably opposed as a "puppet," even if some sort of deal emerged to give them a slice of power."Those who are against the Taliban, they are the majority, and this majority is now neglected," he said
"On one side of the table there are some mullahs, on the other side of the table is an American. Where are the Afghans? We feel unprotected, both by Karzai and by the Americans."
Note here his use of the word "Afghans".  The term originally meant the ethnic group we now call Pushtuns:  they called themselves "Awghaan".  Now the word has become ambiguous, sometimes implying all the citizens of Afghanistan, more than half of which are non-Pushtun, and sometimes meaning only the Pushtuns.  Saleh's term "Afghans" here would never be used in this sense by the Taliban or by most Pushtuns -- remember that lots of Pushtuns are anti-Taliban.
Saleh was a former aide to former anti-Taliban hero Ahmad Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance, .  .  .  .
Taylor neglects to say that Saleh is a Tajik, a fact that in this context is carefully unmentioned but is heavily fraught with memories of Pushtun-Tajiks conflicts in the past.   
He said if war broke out again, it would be worse than the bloody civil war that engulfed the country after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, when rival warlords razed much of Kabul in a conflict that left 50,000 civilians dead."Fighting is not a very sophisticated path. It's easy. And (so is) recruiting people to fight in this country where unemployment is more than 50 percent. To believe that only one group can fight is naivete," he said."They should know that when we offer to be part of the solution, they should not underestimate us."
Karzai had been forced into dealing with the Taliban not because of a stalemate in the NATO-led war, Saleh said, but because his government's poor anti-graft record and failure to build a justice system that people had faith in, leading many Afghans to believe the Taliban could do a better job.
"If we talk to the Taliban from a position of strength, where we have bought reform, where we have restored the confidence of the people in our ability to represent Afghanistan, the Taliban become a group, not a force," he said.
This is more than sabre-rattling.  It could happen.  

1 comment:

Fahim Masoud said...

I'm afraid Saleh is right. The majority of Afghans are not going to be happy with the return of the Taliban. Over the last ten years Afghans have paid a high price - they are willing to sacrifice more of their blood in order to stop the return of the barbarians (Taliban). Even though Afghans have been badly hurt - they are not going to approve any sort of peace deal with the Taliban, for they know that the Taliban are not sincere in their negotiations. I doubt this peace deal would bear any fruition - excuse my pessimism. A peace deal with the Taliban is not the solution or the way forward in Afghanistan, but a "pluralistic," responsible, and efficient government that respects and protects the rights of all Afghans.