Sunday, September 30, 2007

Are the Taliban "The Enemy" or Not?

By Jeffrey Imm

Once again, another national leader of an American "ally" in the "war on terror" has offered to help the Taliban regain political power. AP has reported that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai offered "to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar for peace talks and give the militants a high position in a government ministry as a way to end the rising insurgency in Afghanistan." AP reports that Karzai stated: "If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, 'President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don't want to fight anymore ... If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan." This echoes comments this week by the UK Defense Minister that "the Taliban will need to be involved in the peace process".

In February 2007, the Afghanistan parliament granted immunity to the Taliban's Mullah Omar and other Mujahideen for 25 years worth of activities. Now Afghan President Karzai wants to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar for peace talks to allow the Taliban to join the Afghanistan government. (There is no word if the U.S. State Department would continue to offer $10 million for the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, although he is no longer on their main page of wanted terrorists.) Taliban leader Mullah Omar was reputed to have signed last year's Taliban peace truce with Pakistan.

But isn't the Taliban "the enemy" of the United States of America?

If not, what exactly does the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) call for? The AUMF called for war against "those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations", which surely included the Taliban. Furthermore, there are 171 clustered references to the Taliban in the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission. What more exactly does the United States need to view the Taliban as "the enemy"? Based on the AUMF, how can the Taliban be any less of an enemy to the United States, than Al Qaeda itself?

And if the Taliban are "the enemy", how can Americans accept the Taliban or the Taliban ideology in any political organization of an "ally" nation, let alone ones that American taxpayers provide millions of dollars to? Where is the outrage from American political leadership on this? Why is there no outrage among American political leaders at offers to "legitimize" the same Taliban that helped Al Qaeda in its Jihadist camps to kill 3,000 Americans? As previously discussed, the lack of clarity in identifying the enemy in this war is precisely what allows such disturbing realpolitik considerations.

What do such "peace at any cost" negotiations with an enemy of the United States mean to Jihadists in justifying the use of political terrorism? If the Taliban regain political power in Afghanistan, does American leadership agree that we should lose the Afghanistan war to end the fighting? Isn't that what, in other words, we call "surrender"? Or has our ambiguity about the identity of the enemy gotten so dense that American leadership can now rationalize the Taliban itself?

Earlier this month, Karzai called for peace talks with the Taliban, but the Taliban rejected such talks until "foreign troops" leave Afghanistan. This is a demand that Karzai has rejected on the basis: "[i]t should be very clear until all our roads are paved, until we have good electricity and good water, and also until we have a better Afghan national army and national police, I don't want any foreigners to leave Afghanistan". Is Karzai saying that he just doesn't want western aid to stop, as it did for Hamas?

Karzai's offer for political empowerment to the Taliban in Afghanistan comes as UPI and the Daily Telegraph report that the Taliban has publicly released its "Constitution of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", which provides insight into what the Taliban would do if indeed such political empowerment was realized. The Daily Telegraph reports that the "23-page document envisages a country where women would remain veiled and uneducated, 'un-Islamic thought' would be banned and human rights would be ignored if 'contrary with the teachings of Islam' ", where "violators will be punished according to sharia", and that stipulates that all other constitutions are void. Furthermore, the Taliban constitution has called for "good relations" with those countries supporting Afghanistan "during jihad". I think we can make an educated guess that the Taliban would not consider such countries to include the United States.

Is this the legal system with "its roots in Islamic law" that the UK Defense Minister was stating this week would be a solution to fighting in Afghanistan?

This follows the August offer by Pakistan President Musharraf to help the Taliban become a mainstream political organization. At the August 12 jirga meeting, President Musharraf reflected that as "Taliban are a part of Afghan society", and "all of them are not diehard militants and fanatics", that reaching the Taliban and pro-Taliban population required "a more comprehensive political and development approach". President Bush was reported to have congratulated Pakistan President Musharraf on his efforts at the jirga.

Realpolitik negotiators may believe that there is a "bad Taliban" and a "good Taliban". In Presidents Karzai and Musharraf's views, the "bad Taliban" is violent, and the "good Taliban" is well, just simply "fundamentalist" in their Islamist view of the world. Does America agree with that assessment? Because that is the direction that war in Afghanistan is going based on these outreach efforts to bring the Taliban into the political mainstream. Realpolitik negotiators may believe that bringing the Taliban into a "democratic" political process will end the conflict and fighting in Afghanistan.

Did bringing Hezbollah into the Lebanon government end fighting in Lebanon?
Did Hamas' election to the Palestinian government bring peace to the Palestinian territories?
Did the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic government in Iran bring peace to Iran and its relations with the world?
Has the growing influence of Islamist political and other groups in Pakistan brought stability and peace to Pakistan?

Yet NATO, UN, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the US are all tolerating the idea of peace talks with the Taliban to bring them back into political power in the Afghanistan government. Americans don't even have to compare this to Islamist Iran as an analogy. We have already seen what the Taliban did when they held political power in Afghanistan. Our national homeland was physically attacked and thousands of Americans died as a result. On this near anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, how could we forget that? What next - will we be negotiating a political "mainstream" party for Al Qaeda?

Moreover, with their latest constitution, the Taliban has told us specifically what they plan to do, if they do get back into power. We know who and what the Taliban are and what they plan to do if they regain power. Yet still, American leadership is not denouncing talks to allow the Taliban to return to Afghanistan government power.

If so, this begs the obvious question, what are we fighting for?