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Taliban for Dummies: Learning from American & Soviet mistakes in Afghanistan

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"The Taliban -- ruling what they called the Emriate of Afghanistan after 1996 -- also had funding problems, and were very unhappy about their own reliance on narcotics revenue. So they sought other sources of revenue, but were blocked by a general refusal by the rest of the world to recognize them as a legitimate government. I think this is why bin Laden was able to 'buy' them, in a sense: with his funding, they could afford the principled position of banning poppy culture in 2000, which also improved their relations with Iran."

So bin Ladin was able to buy the Taliban at bargain-basement prices because no one else would pay retail? Okay.

"Only after 2004 did the Taliban leadership recognize that they had struck a bad bargain. They did not believe the US allegation that al Qaeda had committed the 9-11 attacks, not until bin Laden began to take credit for it in his tapes. We attacked the Taliban in October 2001 because we thought they were knowingly harboring our attackers. We know now that they did not believe that al Qaeda was responsible, so here we are, eight years later, still fighting 'the Taliban' when we know that our original rationale for attacking them was invalid."

The Taliban didn't really like Osama bin Ladin all that much? Check.

"If, instead, we had taken the time to make the case for this whodunit, their ethical obligation to protect bin Laden as their guest would have been invalidated. They could have honorably turned him over to the US for betraying his word to them (he had promised not to pursue trans-national jihad to the Taliban leadership). Instead, we've had eight years of intractable war against an organization that should never have been framed as our enemy in the first place."

Bush screwed up. Again. Check that one off.

"Not to say that the Taliban are all warm-and-fuzzy sweethearts. They have political, religious, and social views that I disagree with. I won't apologize for them, but I don't think we have the imperialist right to decide that another government should match our values. In the practical politics of a place that we have barged into due to our own impatience for revenge, the central ethical question is to figure out how to enable Afghans to choose how to govern themselves."

America originally thought that bin Ladin and Saddam Hussein were saints too -- and then they both suddenly became devils. And both Iraq and Afghanistan suffered when America interfered either way. Is Pietro's point that we should stop interfering with other people's governments? I'm not sure. Maybe he means that the next time Washington feels the need to interfer in the sovereignty of other nations, we should at least pause long enough to flip a coin first.

"Unfortunately what we did in December 2001 was to bring back the 'commanders,' whom most Afghan people regarded as worse than the Taliban. At Bonn, the Americans looked through their old rolodexes and invited their old contacts -- the former mujahideen who had become the fratricidal commanders in the early 1990s."

Geez Louise. Does anyone in Washington or the CIA ever even do any research? Apparently not. Got that one too.

"Unfortunately our presence, and support of a corrupting regime has been the Taliban's greatest recruitment campaign. And now, as a result, they are strong enough to fight a war on two fronts: against the Coalition forces in southern Afghanistan and the Pakistani state."

America is currently strengthening the Taliban? Check?

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Stillwater is a freelance writer who hates injustice and corruption in any form but especially injustice and corruption paid for by American taxpayers. She has recently published a book entitled, "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips For Touring (more...)
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