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,
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
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-à-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
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
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
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
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...