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Taliban ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef insists there’s no such thing as a "moderate Taliban," but Western politicians and think tanks think they know better.
Is it time to negotiate with the Taliban? Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf cut a deal with the Afghan extremists last fall, allowing them to flourish safely in his nation’s Waziristan province. Then-Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist said in October that we must "assimilate" them into the Afghan government. Now, in apparent reaction to civilian deaths caused by the Taliban strategy of hiding among regular Afghanis, Afghanistan’s upper house of legislature has voted for an immediate cease-fire and talks followed by withdrawal of NATO forces.
But the futility of talks is obvious from Taliban beliefs and history.
"Moderate Taliban" is an oxymoron, like referring to a lighter shade of black. The Taliban are defined by extremism. Afghan Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta, responding to a German call for talks with the "moderate Taliban," said, "I do not think there is a moderate and ’non-moderate’ Taliban. This distinction was invented by somebody who knows nothing about Afghanistan."
Then how about simply negotiating with the Taliban, period?
Consider that the Taliban is a small subset of one ethnic group (the Pashtun) that is a minority in the country. Yes, it conquered 90 percent of the nation – but not via military acumen. Most Taliban training, then and now, is religious.
It succeeded through two means: bribes (hence its desire to hang onto Osama bin Laden and his huge purse after 9/11, even under threat of U.S. attack) and negotiation.
Negotiation is part and parcel to a warlord society, wherein battles are expensive but talk is cheap. The Taliban negotiate with dual purposes – either to bring over a new warlord whom they keep loyal through payments or to get his followers to lay down their arms and then slaughter them.
Negotiating with the Taliban is like going to dinner with Hannibal Lecter. You can’t gain. Musharraf found that out after negotiating his truce with the group: He kept his word; they broke theirs instantly.
And what could the Afghan government offer the Taliban? One suggestion is to allow the Taliban an Afghan "mini-state," where they can practice their murderous brand of Islamic Sharia. But they already have that - they now run the show in much of Waziristan – which they see as one country with Afghanistan.
Mizan, Zabul District Chief Mohammed Younis (right) says his people realize that the Taliban are at the root of inconveniences and damage caused by American and Afghan forces. Photo by Michael Fumento. Click for larger image.
Moreover, the Taliban started out with an Afghan mini-state in the mid 1990s – and used it as a base from which to expand. Indeed, their fanatical religious beliefs dictate expanding their control to "infidels" throughout the entire country and even beyond. That’s why neighbors such as Iran, Turkey, Russia and most of the Central Asian republics opposed them.
Finally, just what part of the Afghan populace are we going to throw to these wolves?
When I first sat in on a conversation with the Zabul region’s Mizan District Chief Mohammed Younis during my April embed in that Pashtun area, he told us that his people "blame it on Taliban" when raids by American or Afghani soldiers disrupted their lives. At first, I suspected he was just saying what we wanted to hear – but over the course of lengthy conversations (the only kind Afghans have) I realized he was quite straightforward.
Further, a WorldPublicOpinion.org poll released last December showed that merely 7 percent of Afghanis have a positive view of the Taliban, down slightly from a survey 11 months earlier. They have not forgotten the horrors of extremist rule.
Ultimately, however, we must remember that we didn’t invade Afghanistan to liberate the people. We fought to eliminate the staging ground for attacks by the world’s most dangerous terrorist group, al Qaeda. That meant driving out the Taliban and keeping them out.
Sure, they’d be happy to retake power while offering an absolute guarantee that al Qaeda won’t come along – and it’s absolutely guaranteed that they’d be lying.
Michael Fumento was embedded in April with U.S. and Romanian troops in Afghanistan’s Zabul Province. Read Michael Fumento’s additional writing on the military, on Iraq, and on the media, and view his Spring 2006 Iraq photos from both the Fallujah area and Ramadi, his Fall 2006 Ramadi photos and personal photos. View his 2005 Iraq photos.
Michael Fumento has paid for his military trips entirely out of pocket, including roundtrip airfare to Kuwait, hotels in Kuwait, war insurance, and virtually all his gear. Please support him via PayPal Donate or Amazon Honor System via the logos below.