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Srirangan
06 Jan 07,, 08:24
Afghanistan: Galloping Backward (http://www.india-defence.com/reports/2783)
An IDSA Research Paper by Vishal Chandra

That the Taliban power stands resurrected is a fact now. At the same time, the 'war on terror' is also showing signs of fatigue. It has already come to a halt in the north-western tribal expanse of Pakistan, the cradle of the Taliban's resurrection.

Dubbed as 'remnants' until recently, the Taliban today are a power to reckon with, effectively redrawing the power equations within Afghanistan. NATO-led forces, which were meant to have acted as an effective deterrent against the Taliban are proving to be a mere buffer force between the Taliban in the south and the mujahideen factions in the north.

The five-year old political process and the paradoxical 'war on terror' have failed to transform the political dynamics in Afghanistan. With the levels of violence and poppy boom breaking all previous records, and effective institutions of governance still a far cry, Afghanistan seems to be galloping backward. A sense of perplexity and growing uncertainty has certainly come to grip the campaigners of the 'war on terror'.

While Pakistan prescribes the replication of the deals similar to the ones it has struck with militants in Waziristan in southern Afghanistan, the West appears to be reconciling to Taliban control in these areas. Pakistan and the resurrected Taliban have certainly emerged as the biggest gainers from the 'war on terror'.

They are the 'new winners' of the 'war on terror', whereas the 'old winners', the mujahideen factions of the United Front and the pro-Karzai elements, are being subjected to criticism for the failures of 'war on terror' in Afghanistan. It is no secret that the US has been looking for an ally from within the Taliban.

It would not be wrong to say that Afghan politics has begun moulding the West to its own advantage. Instead of the 'war on terror' shaping the Afghan conflict, it is the Taliban and Pakistan who have begun laying terms and conditions for the 'resolution' of the conflict.

The fact that both Pakistan and the US have, since the rout of the Taliban in 2001, been proposing the inclusion of 'moderate' Taliban in the Afghan government, makes the cooption of 'sections' of the Taliban not so distant a possibility.

Ironically, post-2001 Afghanistan has witnessed the resurgence of both the mujahideen factions and the Taliban, the two prime actors in the Afghan civil war. With Pakistan determined to regain its share of influence in Afghan politics, another round of jockeying for power, involving both domestic and external actors, could be on the anvil.

The term 'Taliban' has undoubtedly come to assume a more generic connotation. In the meanwhile, a plethora of anti-West extremist forces, both local and foreign, have come together with a unity of purpose. The western forces engaging the anti-Kabul forces are finding the exercise costlier day by day, both in terms of expenditure and human casualties. About 40,000 international forces present in Afghanistan today appear to be clueless in developing an effective counter-strategy against the anti-Kabul forces.

Needless to say that the kind of mobilization that has taken place in the vast rural Pashtun tribal belt from NWFP in Pakistan to south-western Afghanistan was ignored and trivialized by the campaigners of the 'war on terror' in favour of the US war in Iraq. No wonder, the Taliban have been shifting their battle lines further close to the urban centres in the southern and eastern provinces around Kabul.

The Taliban are expected to move sooner or later to areas where factions aligned with Kabul appear to be in control. They have already filled the vacuum in rural Pashtun areas and NATO-led forces are left with no option but to remain content with control over the urban centres around Kabul either by striking deals with the local Taliban or launching military operations against them, whichever way it works.

Worst of all is the prevalent trans-Atlantic divide among NATO member-states, which is reflected in NATO's faltering Afghan mission. Similarly, the commitment of the myriad Afghan factions that comprise the anti-Taliban coalition kept together under an externally-sponsored political process also remains questionable.

The role of highly experienced former mujahideen Pashtun commanders like Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalal-ud Din Haqqani in rejuvenating the military power of the Taliban is a notable phenomenon. It may not be far-fetched to say that the mujahideen politics with its deep ethnic undertones has also contributed to the resurrection of the Taliban. Given the trend of shifting loyalties and changing alliances in the Afghan civil war, the possibility of more disgruntled Pashtun commanders aligning with the Taliban cannot be ruled out in the coming years.

It is difficult to say as to what extent the Taliban could be de-linked from the Pakistani State in future. The probability of the Taliban having acquired a certain dynamic of its own and assuming relative autonomy from the Pakistani State is worth enquiring into. Among the Pashtun tribes straddling the contentious Durand Line, the Taliban definitely have a strong rear base to fall back upon in times of urgency.

Pakistan's failure to subdue the tribes in its north-western region has gone a long way in exposing the institutional weaknesses of Pakistan and its enforcement agencies to rein in the tribal populace and the militant Islamists of all hues present in the region.

In fact, the tenuous hold of the Pakistani State over the region has left pro-Taliban Pakistani religio-political parties emboldened to carry on their experiment with medieval ideological fantasies. Thus, the extensive support for the Afghan Taliban among the Pashtun tribes in Pakistan's north-western tribal areas and the influential religious political parties are proven assets for the Taliban.

However, the possibility of the Taliban repeating its conquest of the 1990s may not be possible as minority ethnic factions have consolidated their strength in the last five years and the US is not likely to completely withdraw from Afghanistan. Kabul's limited strength, which lies in the international support it has enjoyed over the last five years, could wane with the elections in the US and UK. Given the changing scenario, a new political configuration may also emerge in Kabul.

In this context, it may be worth considering whether it is time to revive something on the lines of the earlier 'Six-plus-Two' Group. Perhaps, a 'Seven-plus-Two' Group, including India, could be formed to monitor, discuss and analyse the Afghan situation on a regular basis and to engage various Afghan factions more meaningfully with the objective of resolving the Afghan conflict.

However, as of now, the fact remains that Afghanistan is years away from stability and peace, if any has to come to the land of buzkashi.

Vishal Chandra is Associate Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

Asim Aquil
07 Jan 07,, 13:09
I have to repeat the famous line from the Matrix... There is no spoon!

There is no Taliban, at least not how it existed before. As time progresses you'd be fighting the people, the Pashtuns only.

Asim Aquil
07 Jan 07,, 13:18
Afghan MPs predict "very big war"

KABUL: As a former senior Taliban commander and associate of Osama bin Laden, Mullah Abdul Salam Rocketi was a shining example of the warlords who seemed to be rejecting violence and embracing Afghanistan`s new democracy.

But the MP for the southern province of Zabul now typifies the anger and despair raging through this blood-soaked country.

In a series of interviews, a number of Afghan politicians said a mass uprising against NATO-led forces will soon begin, driving out the foreign troops and igniting a civil war.

"When the Taliban came along I gave everything to them because I wanted the country to improve and the people to be safe," said Rocketi. "Then when the current government came along I gave everything to them because I thought they would make the country better. But I regret that.

"Everything is gone now, we have nothing. I regret it not because I am no longer with the Taliban, but because this government does not have the power to improve our country.

"It`s getting worse and worse and worse. I don`t have any hope. But whatever is happening now, the people can`t complain. If they make a noise the local governor will say they are Taliban or Al-Qaeda and get them sent to Bagram."

Rocketi - whose name derives from his famed ability with a Rocket- Propelled Grenade launcher - said pressure is building as his country slips backwards.

"I know, I am sure, that soon a very big war will start between the foreigners and the population," he explained.

The parliamentary elections of September 18, 2005, were hailed as a key event in Afghanistan`s transition from a war-torn nation ruled by Islamic extremists to a peaceful and moderate democracy.

However, the Taliban-led insurgency has grown rapidly during the last year and MPs believe the rebellion is an accurate reflection of public anger.

While all militants are usually portrayed as isolated radicals, the reality is not so simple. Fierce anti-American and anti-NATO rhetoric can be heard almost everywhere in this country now. Even moderates who support the presence of foreign troops are predicting catastrophe.

With his well-pressed suit and smart tie, Mohammad Hashem Watanwall, MP for the southern province of Uruzgan, would look perfectly at home in the House of Commons. But his vision of the future is bleak.

"There is a big fire under the earth. It`s like a volcano and soon it will explode," he warned. "It will explode if everything continues like now: the corruption, the bad security, the bombing of civilians by coalition forces. Soon it will explode and people will stand up in the name of jihad and martyrdom if there are no big changes.

"Now in Parliament the MPs are saying `Forget about Pakistan and the Taliban, why are the foreigners here?`

"They are saying a thousand headed dragon is here and it`s the foreign armies. Just imagine, if the MPs are saying that in an official place what will a simple person in a village be saying?"

He added: "Now in Parliament they say if you kill a foreigner, a non Muslim, and then you yourself are killed you will become a martyr and go straight to paradise. They see no difference between the military or civilians."

The insurgency that overpowered Soviet troops and Kabul`s puppet Communist regime began with small rebel movements. It developed into a nationwide struggle during which Mujahideen battled against the Russians, local government forces and each other.

That occupation ended in 1989, but peace remained elusive and between 1992 and 1996 a brutal civil war raged among Afghanistan`s different ethnic groups and political factions.

Watanwall predicted any new full-scale jihad would have the same result. "Of course some tribes will fight each other," he said. "They will say you are Pashtun, I am Tajik, I am Tajik you are Hazara, you are Shia I am Pashtun. The civil war will start because of differences of skin, differences of language, differences of religion.

"Hazaras say they don`t have enough positions in the government, Uzbeks say that, Tajiks say that, even Pashtuns say that and they have Karzai as president. Now it`s ideological and with words but soon it will turn to violence.

"I believe if the international forces and the government don`t take any strong steps then soon it will start and it could get as bad as Iraq."

Ahmad Shah Khan Achekzai is MP for Kandahar, where Canadian troops are based. He joined Rocketi in demanding that Pashtuns - the ethnic group from which the Taliban draw their core support - be given more positions in government. He also launched into a tirade against the foreign troops.

"The population hates the government, hates the Americans and hates their friends because they are all liars," he said.

"Soon the jihad will start, that`s right. The Americans and the coalition came to Afghanistan by way of the United Nations, but when they go into people`s houses and search them it`s unacceptable. They are acting against Islam and they are attacking innocent people.

"There will be jihad, I am 100 per cent sure. It`s against our culture, it`s against Islam - if they want to come to our houses they need permission."

Then, almost as an afterthought, he added: "If the jihad starts, of course I will join it - it`s natural."

http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.shtml?165150

So jihad against foreigners and non-Muslims before when there was Taliban. The same after Taliban. What did it achieve? There is no spoon. You cannot win unless you are ready to nuke the country to glass.

If anything the occupation of Afghanistan has made it worse.

Ray
07 Jan 07,, 13:37
Asim,

The Pakistan Tribune is dreaming dreams of yore!

NATO is not a toothless tiger. Should they really put their teeth to it, then the blocks will fall in place.

Wait till the end of the Pakistani elections and that will be the decider as to which side of the bread is buttered!

I, for one, do not underestimate the American inputs into the 'Great Game'.

Asim Aquil
07 Jan 07,, 13:59
Asim,

The Pakistan Tribune is dreaming dreams of yore!

NATO is not a toothless tiger. Should they really put their teeth to it, then the blocks will fall in place.

Wait till the end of the Pakistani elections and that will be the decider as to which side of the bread is buttered!

I, for one, do not underestimate the American inputs into the 'Great Game'.
They can exert might! But their might is what is causing all the problems since they have been unable to "win hearts". As I said the best they can do is nuke the crap out of Afghanistan but since they can't do that, they'd just fail to eliminate the Taliban. Who will they kill? There will always be a "Khan" that will challenge them.

I think the real decider would be the American elections of 2008 and who America appoints to police when they leave.

Ray
07 Jan 07,, 14:01
No matter who wins, the American global policy cannot be abandoned by whoever becomes the President.

The American perspective of the world cannot change.

It is what it was and continues to be.

Asim Aquil
07 Jan 07,, 14:06
Asim,

The Pakistan Tribune is dreaming dreams of yore!
The article is British and was picked up by Paktribune (one of the oldest and a generally reputable Pakistani news source on the web - formerly paknews.com)

http://www.rabble.ca/news_full_story.shtml?x=56118


Chris Sands is a British freelance writer living out in the wilds of Afghanistan. He has been there for 16 months, travelling without the help of NATO soldiers or anyone else who carries a gun. This piece first appeared in The Dominion.

Ray
07 Jan 07,, 14:09
Chris Sands is a British freelance writer living out in the wilds of Afghanistan. He has been there for 16 months, travelling without the help of NATO soldiers or anyone else who carries a gun. This piece first appeared in The Dominion.

Without protection in Afghanistan?

Could that not mean a 'sponsored' tour?

Asim Aquil
07 Jan 07,, 14:17
No matter who wins, the American global policy cannot be abandoned by whoever becomes the President.

The American perspective of the world cannot change.

It is what it was and continues to be.
Hopefully it would. Hopefully they would realize that a more proactive approach is required to weed out extremism from Muslim societies of the world. As Christians they should follow the wisdom of "Violence begets violence". That is what has happened. After 5 years of war, the violent nature of Iraq and Afghanistan has only increased. Even more violence will lead to just that "even more violence".

The American world view only seems like the best way to deal with it all is to keep increasing the level of violence till the extremist forces cannot keep up. They are extremists. They can keep up.

In the meanwhile they keep gaining recruits as the line between a Pashtun and a Taliban blurs out. Sri's websites article is right, Pakistan has been a major gainer in this War on Terror in one way. Pakistan has fought the War on Terror on a purely war on terror sort of way. We are Muslims so we were extra vigilant in not making it into a war on Islam, the west wasn't. It didn't care about that angle. After 5 years, Pakistan has at least a clear view from now on that there is a struggle between conservative Pakistan and liberal Pakistan.

The coming elections you mentioned are termed as the mother of elections for this very reason. Conservatives are Mullahs, Liberals are urban city people. This distinction was never made in Pakistan before. We have combated extremism at least to this degree that we can do so right now. This is what we have to show for the war on terror and Nato/America has Iraq and comments like those of Rocketi to show for its work.

Karthik
07 Jan 07,, 14:39
I dont think lawmakers in the US will be too pleased if Afghanistan slips back into the state that it once was.

Asim,

Do you really want Afghanistan to revert back to the Taliban ways? I mean, common - they were one of the most inhumane regimes on the planet. Not to mention how they have plunged the world into a WoT.

Is this not in Pakistan's long term interests?

Srirangan
07 Jan 07,, 14:43
I have to repeat the famous line from the Matrix... There is no spoon!

There is no Taliban, at least not how it existed before. As time progresses you'd be fighting the people, the Pashtuns only.

You mean the way Pakistan army bombed 100 odd Pashtun kids while they were asleep in their madrassa?

Ray
07 Jan 07,, 17:12
Taliban is not the issue.

If Pakistan has the will, Afghanistan will be any normal Moslem country!

Musharraf has lost out!

Poor man!

Zhang Fei
08 Jan 07,, 05:35
As Christians they should follow the wisdom of "Violence begets violence".I think it depends on how much violence is applied. Beyond a certain point, your adversary begs you to accept his surrender, lest he and his face extinction. Islam spread throughout much of the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa in this manner. China has kept its Uighur minority down by trumping up charges against and executing the male relatives of suspected anti-government guerrillas. Seems to have worked in keeping its 7m or so Uighurs pacified.

Ray
08 Jan 07,, 05:51
Zhang Fei,

The Chinese however do not agree that violence has been used against the Uighurs.

They have merely been put along the path of enlightenment with re-education that has rid them of reactionary ideas.

Zhang Fei
08 Jan 07,, 16:42
Even more violence will lead to just that "even more violence".Spengler (not the original one) on how violence leads, not to more violence, but a resolution:
It is unpopular these days to draw attention to the merits of violence, particularly the sort that inevitably entails "collateral damage", that is, the slaughter of innocents. Progress supposedly brings us non-violent conflict resolution. Au contraire. The faster the world changes, the more people find themselves left behind, and the more people are left behind, the more diehards are willing to fight to the death. Real nations, as opposed to romantic visions of nations, have no room for irredentists and other rejectionists. They need the sort of people who show up on time, pay dues to a respectable political party and get along (if grudgingly) with the neighbors.Over 10% of Germany's population died during WWII. We have had six decades of peace since. 3.5% of Japan's population died during the Pacific War. Japan is possibly the least war-like nation in East Asia today. Violence applied with conviction flenses away the diehards, leaving a core of cowering individuals willing to sacrifice anything for peace. Given enough endurance, bin Laden might yet bring America to its knees. Conversely, given enough bloody-mindedness, America might bring the mujahideen to its knees. Whomever wins, violence ultimately leads to peace*, not more violence.

* This is why the Taliban fights - not because it wants war without end, but because it wants peace - on its terms.

Shipwreck
08 Jan 07,, 18:32
If anything the occupation of Afghanistan has made it worse.

You must be joking there. :rolleyes:

Ray
09 Jan 07,, 16:48
As Christians they should follow the wisdom of "Violence begets violence".

Whatever for?

Just because the shoe pinches the Islamists?

How come the Islamic terrorists don't realise that 'violence begets violence'?

Is it not in the Islamic scriptures?

If not, then the Islamist terrorist are going the wrong way!