As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, March 09, 2009

Can We Really Reconcile Taliban?

Barack Obama's nod to the possibility that moderate Taliban could potentially be co-opted into working with the Afghan government and US forces, the way Sunni insurgents were presumably co-opted to work against Al Qaeda in Iraq (I say "presumably" because that's not the accurate description of what happened, in fact the Awakening forces got sick of Al Qaeda practically of their own accord), is a fairly good position to take. It recognizes that peace can only happen with the support of those who can enforce it. However, the reality of actually getting moderate Taliban to ally with the US is that it's unlikely to happen. That doesn't mean you stop trying, but it's important to understand the truth of the situation on the ground.

Barack Obama's call for "moderate" Taliban members to be brought in from the cold met with scepticism yesterday from leading Afghan opposition figures, who warned that co-opting fighters would fail as long as Hamid Karzai's government appeared weak and corrupt [...]

Ashraf Ghani, a former Afghanistan finance minister, who is to stand as presidential candiate in the elections in August, said: "I don't know of a single peace process that has been successfully negotiated from a position of weakness or stalemate."

A Taliban spokesman, who said that the US president's overture was a sign of weakness, poured cold water on the notion that "moderate" fighters could be easily turned.

Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman contacted by telephone, said: "They say they want to speak to moderate Taliban but they will not be able to find such people because we are united around the aim of fighting for freedom and bringing an Islamic system to Afghanistan." He added that Obama's comments were a reflection of the fact that the Americans had "become tired and worried".

the tenor of this piece is that there's no reason for the Taliban to switch sides when they appear to be winning. This would have been a good strategy five or six years ago, but now it will be difficult to turn Taliban unless the government first turns itself around and recaptures the support of the Afghan people. And that probably doesn't happen without the end of the Karzai regime. His reputation is too tarnished with weakness and corruption.

Spencer Ackerman goes deeper on this possibility, and is a little more optimistic - hoping that alliances between midlevel commanders and US unit leaders at the brigade level could break out. Personally, I see Chinese copper wealth and a new government able to distribute it as being a potentially better bet.

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