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Peace in Afghanistan?

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Headlined to H3 2/16/10

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The latest peace initiatives in Afghanistan as reported by Gareth Porter are difficult to comprehend, mostly because they assume a dream-like quality. At times, as I read the substance of these initiatives, I wondered if Porter was trying to be funny.

He was not. Porter is a professional with the Inter Press Service, and comedy is not his forte. His analysis of these initiatives in two articles dated Feb. 2nd and Feb. 5th is clear and precise. The first is entitled "US, Karzai Clash on Unconditional Talks With Taliban," and the second is entitled "Mediators' Plan a Road Map to Afghanistan Peace? " In his two articles Porter accurately recorded what he saw and heard. His reporting is not in question. What he saw and heard is, as it befuddles the mind, including, most probably, Porter's.

His Feb. 2nd article reports that Hamid Karzai, ostensibly the president of Afghanistan, but in reality the mayor of Kabul, if that in terms of security, is in defiance of the U.S. with respect to peace negotiations. Porter reports growing anger and increasing suspicions on U.S. intentions on the part of Afghans, including Karzai. "The current source of tension is Karzai's proposal, first made last November, to invite Taliban leaders - including Mullah Omar - to a national 'Loya Jirga' or 'Grand Council' meeting aimed at achieving a peace agreement." Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's response was swift. She demanded the Taliban's renunciation of al Qaeda and of violence and acceptance of the Afghan constitution in advance of the meeting. These conditions would make it impossible for the leaders of the insurgency to agree if they are interpreted literally. Again, as during the Bush administration, there are conditions for negotiating, when, in fact, such conditions should be a part of the negotiations themselves, and not a pre-condition. Brazenly, Karzai's reaction was to publicly ask the United States to join in the talks with the Taliban leadership, according to Porter.

Later, at the London Conference in late January, Karzai announced that he would invite the leadership of the Taliban to a Loya Jirga and that the Taliban would not have to meet certain conditions prior to attending the talks. Porter writes, "The Obama administration again reacted with scarcely-disguised disapproval. The State Department spokesman repeated the U.S. line that 'anyone who wants to reconcile and play a more constructive role in Afghanistan's future must accept the constitution, renounce violence and publicly break with extremist groups such as al Qaeda.'"

The Taliban renounce al Qaeda? That will never happen. The ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda run very deep. They go back to the Soviet/Afghan War during the '80s wherein the Mujahidin, later known as the Taliban, fought alongside Osama bin Laden and his band of Arab fighters, later known as al Qaeda, and between the two of them, defeated the Soviet Red Army. In addition, their religious philosophies are the same. Both are fundamentalist Sunni Islamic extremists. They are like brothers in a hostile world. Asking the Taliban to break with al Qaeda is akin to asking the United States to break its ties with Britain. One should never underestimate the loyalties of fanatics. Nevertheless, Porter's analysis of Karzai's dream world continued unabated, along with Karzai's break with the American government.

Porter reported, "Karzai said he would seek to constrain U.S. military forces in the country. 'We're going to ask the international community to end nighttime raids on Afghan homes,' he said, 'to stop arresting Afghans, to reduce and eliminate civilian casualties. We're going to ask them not to have Afghan prisoners.'" So now, in deference to the Taliban leadership, including Mullah Omar, Karzai is attempting to tell his "ally," the United States, how to fight a war. All this begs a question. Why should the Taliban come to the table? Its adversaries are at each others throats.


There is a broader issue concerning the question above. As reported in Sept. 2009, the Taliban have a "permanent presence" in 80 percent of Afghanistan. "Permanent presence" in a province is defined as one or more insurgent attacks - lethal and non-lethal - per week. Alexander Jackson is a policy analyst at the International Council on Security and Development in London."We're now seeing Taliban control across the country. And one of the most significant things that we're seeing in this latest map is the increased level of Taliban presence in the north of the country. Provinces such as Kunduz and Balkh, which previously were relatively stable, are now seeing very high levels of Taliban activity," he said. Obama's surge has a long way to go. Why should the Taliban come to the table when, after over eight years of war, it can certainly be argued that they are winning the war. In one particular sense they already have. For over eight years they have tied down the American military and weakened America in a God-forsaken region nobody in their right mind wants with no light at the end of the tunnel yet.

With this as a backdrop the American plan to bring peace to Afghanistan is even more unrealistic than Karzai's. The Obama administration's plan is to entice mid-level Taliban commanders and troops with "economic incentives" to end the war, to provide them with jobs and homes providing they put down their weapons and pick up the spade. This is like negotiating, or buying off, foot soldiers, captains, majors, and colonels to end a war. Why does the Obama administration assume that the Taliban soldier is any less dedicated than the American soldier? Porter reports on the ongoing tête-Ã-tête between Karzai and Obama, "In an interview with al-Jazeera in early January, Karzai said he would not request more money to reintegrate individual Taliban fighters into the government side."

Porter ends his Feb. 2 article with this ominous paragraph, emphasis is mine. "The U.S. efforts to discourage Karzai from entering into talks with the Taliban should not be taken as evidence of opposition to such negotiations in the future, according to an official of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul. The Obama administration appears to want to postpone peace talks until mid-2011 - after it has sought to weaken the Taliban by adding 30,000 more troops."

Porter's Feb. 5th article continues with the President Karzai's surrealism. After reading the article, one is compelled to ask a few questions. With leadership like Karzai's will this war ever end? More to the point, what in the name of Heaven is Washington doing? Even more to the point, it is apparently obvious that Karzai is incompetent, living a fantasy all his own. All this leads to another question. What is the competency level of America's political and military leadership? Who really are the fools here, the ignorant and uneducated Afghans or America's leadership?

Porter's second article will be presented in capsule form with little interruption.

In Karzai's world hope rests with four ex-Taliban officials who represent mediators in future talks with the Taliban leadership. One of them is Arsullah Rahmani who, according to Porter, spoke to IPS in an interview at his home in Kabul. "The first step toward a settlement is 'an agreement between Karzai and the Taliban about no killing of doctors and no damage to roads, etc [by the Taliban], in return for no night raids and detention [by the United States],' said Rahmani, formerly a Taliban commander and now an elected member of Afghanistan's upper house." Earlier, when speaking to al Jazeera, Rahmani clarified what he meant by "detention." He intends to seek an end to NATO's nighttime raids on Afghan homes and the arrest and detention of Afghans on the suspicion of belonging to the Taliban. Whether such a demand of NATO forces is realistic or not is in serious question.

The dream-like quality of Karzai's hopes continue. "Rahmani said the mediation group's plan calls for the two sides to address the question of changing the constitution in the last stage of the negotiations, after they have reached agreement on the key international issues of withdrawal of all foreign troops and al Qaeda and the Taliban's renunciation of ties with al Qaeda."Porter adds, "The team also believes the Taliban is at least favorably inclined toward their 'road map' to a settlement. Former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, another member of the team, told IPS that the Taliban 'are going to accept some of our suggestions.'"

The mediation team is led by Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef who was the Taliban regime's last ambassador to Pakistan. Statements above would indicate pure fantasy. Porter's next paragraph is just plain weird, or it shows the futility of the effort. "It is unclear how Zaeef and other team members have communicated with Taliban leaders. Muttawakil said in an interview that it would be dangerous to the Taliban to try to contact them directly. 'I don't want anyone to be harmed,' he said. He has communicated with the Taliban primarily through his own statements to the news media, Muttawakil told IPS." This implies, despite all the glorious planning, the mediators, and most likely Karzai himself, have not even talked to the Taliban.

From an American viewpoint with the background of an enduring fight and what we are supposed to be fighting for it gets worse. "Muttawakil suggested that the primary implication of such a proposal would not be to eliminate electoral institutions but to ensure that laws based on Islam are enforced. 'The important thing is Sharia law,' said Muttawakil."Sharia, meaning"path" in Arabic, law guides all aspects of Muslim life including daily routines, familial and religious obligations, and financial dealings. It is derived primarily from the Quran and the Sunna--the sayings, practices, and teachings of the Prophet Mohammed. It is the very antithesis of democracy which incorporates freedom of religion and the total absence of a state religion.

Porter continues, "Former Taliban foreign ministry official Wahid Muzhdah, who is not a member of the mediating team but is an analyst of the Taliban's thinking, says the Taliban insistence on 'Sharia law government' means they want religious scholars, or ulema, to exercise ultimate power over the law and perhaps even the selection of a government. The Taliban position is that not everyone should have the right to elect the president, according to Muzhdah. Although the idea of giving the ulema veto power over the choice of government would represent a direct challenge to the liberal democratic institutions in the existing constitution, Muzhdah recalls that it was widely discussed during the period immediately following the overthrow of the Communist-led regime in 1992."

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I am the author of two novels, "The Bode Testament" and "Impeachment." I am also a columnist who keeps a wary eye on other columnists and the failures of the MSM (mainstream media). I was born in Minnesota, and, to this day, I love the Vikings (more...)
 
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