It is beyond comprehension why America's leaders
are unable to comprehend the nature of the Taliban. They are not fanatics in the
sense that they are motivated by some incomprehensible beliefs that defy logic
and sense of purpose. Contrary to popular Western belief, they are not
terrorists. They have not launched one terrorist attack on any nation on this
globe with the possible exception of Pakistan where they are fighting for their
The Pakistani Taliban and the Afghan Taliban
leaders, who are now ensconced in Pakistan, are under attack by the Pakistani
army and militia. It follows that they are defending themselves the only way
they can, and attacks on Pakistani cities are merely an extension of the war in
Since I am not an apologist for the Taliban, it
should be explained who the Taliban really are. The Taliban are a strict
fundamentalist Sunni sect that adhere uncompromisingly to sharia law, much as many in the
Western world adhere to democratic principles. They are also nationalists. The
U.S.-led NATO invasion threw them out of power in late 2001. They want that
They are Pashtuns, the dominant tribe in Afghanistan and feel
that governing Afghanistan is their right. They are also insurgents using
guerilla warfare techniques because they are outgunned from a technological
standpoint and have no air power.
Most, including Muslims, have little sympathy
for the Taliban's harsh religious beliefs. For the U.S. it is a question of
knowing the enemy. Ignorance of the enemy's intentions, belief systems, and
will is a recipe for disaster. Evidence Exhibit A: Eight years and five months
of war since the U.S.-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan. Evidence Exhibit B: The
Red Army invasion of Afghanistan, resulting in ultimate defeat after eight years
of war. Evidence Exhibit C: Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires (see opening
paragraph of this article).
Into this crucible President Obama suggested at a meeting of his "war cabinet" recently that it might
be time to start negotiations with the Taliban, According to a report in the New
York Times, "Obama said that the success of the recent
operation to take control of the 'insurgent stronghold' of Marja, combined with
the killing of insurgent leaders in Pakistan by drone attacks, might be
sufficient to 'justify an effort to begin talks with the Taliban', two
participants in the meeting told the Times." There is just one problem.
Actually, there are several, but the problem I am referring to is that Marja was
neither an "insurgent stronghold" nor a city.
According to IPS reporter
Gareth Porter, "For weeks, the U.S. public followed the biggest offensive of the
Afghanistan War against what it was told was a 'city of 80,000 people' as well
as the logistical hub of the Taliban in that part of Helmand. That idea was a
central element in the overall impression built up in February that Marja was a
major strategic objective, more important than other district centers in
Helmand. It turns out, however, that the picture of Marja presented by military
officials and obediently reported by major news media is one of the clearest and
most dramatic pieces of misinformation of the entire war, apparently aimed at
hyping the offensive as a historic turning point in the conflict." Porter added,
"Marja is not a city or even a real town, but either a few clusters of farmers'
homes or a large agricultural area covering much of the southern Helmand River
Porter's account is verified
by an official of the International Security Assistance Force who asked,
mysteriously, not to be identified, probably concerned about his job status.
"It's not urban at all." He called Marja a "rural community,"and explained, "It's a collection
of village farms, with typical family compounds," adding that
the homes are reasonably prosperous by Afghan standards. Porter is further
supported by Richard B. Scott, who worked in Marja as an adviser on irrigation
for the U.S. Agency for International Development as recently as 2005.
Scott agrees that Marja has nothing that could be mistaken as being urban. It is
an "agricultural district" with a "scattered series of farmers' markets."
Inadvertently, the A.P. also supports Porter. A Feb. 21 story, referred to Marja
as "three markets in a town which covers 80 square miles ..." Porter suggests
that "A 'town' with an area of 80 square miles would be bigger than such U.S.
cities as Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh and Cleveland. But AP failed to notice
that something was seriously wrong with that reference."
Fortunately, there are
other views within Obama's "war cabinet," and they are predominantly espoused by
SecState Clinton and SecDef Gates. Both Gates and Clinton
have argued in recent months that attempting to negotiate with Taliban leaders
would be fruitless unless and until they have been convinced by U.S. military
operations that they are losing. Unfortunately, success of NATO military
operations in Afghanistan is very iffy, and the weight of history is not
favorable to the Western powers. In addition to 2,500 years of imperial
frustration in Afghanistan, the U.S. military record in a guerilla warfare
environment, from Vietnam to Lebanon to Somalia to Iraq to Afghanistan has not
exactly been a pantheon of success. In fact, it could be argued the very
opposite is true.
Obama's assertions, it is within the realm of possibility, or the imaginative,
that the Taliban may wish to initiate negotiations with U.S. leaders for the
purposes of removing the U.S.-led NATO invading forces from their land. They
could use in their arguments Exhibits A, B, and C, and add Exhibit D -- the total
failure of the U.S. military in a guerilla environment for the past half
Complicating the issue, which is standard fare in Afghanistan, is the
arrest of one Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Pakistan. Baradar is second in the
Taliban only to the one-eyed Mullah
Mohammed Omar, and the latter decided to provide safe haven to bin Laden and
Al-Qa'ida after 9/11, prompting the U.S.-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan. Deb
Riechmann and Kathy Gannon of the A.P. reported that "Karzai 'was very angry'
when he heard that the Pakistanis had picked up Baradar with an assist from
U.S. intelligence, a Karzai adviser said. Besides the ongoing talks, he
said Baradar had 'given a green light' to participating in a three-day peace
jirga that Karzai is hosting next month."
Karzai wants Omar to attend that
jirga, but the U.S. has not given the "green light" to Omar's right of passage
to the event. What actually precipitated Baradar's arrest remains a
mystery. However, it raises questions about whether the U.S. is willing to back
peace discussions with top leaders of the Taliban. In the past, the U.S. position
has been to negotiate with mid-level commanders of the Taliban, not the likes of
Omar. Obama's "suggestions" do not change that
Complicating the issue further -- as if the reader really
wanted to hear that -- is the U.S. and Britain, prime movers of the NATO
invasion of Afghanistan, cannot agree. The A.P. report stated, "At a breakfast
meeting in Islamabad last week,
Karzai said he and his Western
allies were at odds over who should be at the negotiating table. Karzai
said the United States was expressing reservations about talks with the top
echelon of the Taliban while the British were 'pushing for an acceleration' in
the negotiation process."
Karzai is reported to have said, "Our allies are not
always talking the same language," no doubt adding to his frustration. I have
the deepest lack of respect for the so-called mayor of Kabul -- he is corrupt,
his administration is corrupt, his family is corrupt, and there are deep
reservations as to whether or not he is a nationalist leader -- but, perhaps in
this case, he has a point.
According to the A.P., Hakim Mujahed, a former Taliban
ambassador to the United Nations, said many Taliban leaders are willing to talk.
"The problem is not from the Taliban side," he said. "There is no interest of
negotiations from the side of the foreign forces [U.S.-led NATO forces]."
Lisa Curtis, a research fellow on South Asia for the Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning
think tank in Washington, wades in with these comments -- "This disagreement is
contributing to a lack of clarity in U.S. official statements on the issue and
leading to confusion among our allies," she said. Well, no [expletive deleted].
Adding to our angst, Curtis states, "The military surge should be given time to
bear fruit. Insurgents are more likely to negotiate if they fear defeat on the
battlefield." She might have added, "I believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter
Bunny," but she didn't. She also failed to add that our vaunted military has a
dismal record in insurgencies. She also was remiss in failing to note that the
Taliban, not NATO forces, have the upper hand in
"The military surge should be given time to bear fruit."
Uh-huh. LBJ's "military surge" in the late '60's is recalled, 550,000
troops, resulting in an embarrassing defeat of the U.S. military. The Red Army's
"surge" of 100,000 troops is recalled in the early '80's, along with roughly
200,000 soldiers from the Afghan Communist Army -- albeit essentially worthless,
not unlike the ANA today -- and the Soviet Union's defeat eight years later after
enormous casualties on both sides.
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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...