28 February 2007

Out of range

In this article, Bronwen Maddox claims that it's best to talk to the Taleban rather than fight them, because fighting them is all too hard.

Negotiated settlements are usually best if they're on offer, which they're not in modern Afghanistan. All the wank surrounding "holding talks" is less repulsive than a pile of corpses. However, negotiation with the Taleban and al-Qaeda is not possible. Western forces and moderate Muslims should destroy them, and with them the desire for a fundamentalist Islamic order brought into being by terror and bloodshed.

If they fear being destroyed, then let them come to the negotiating table cap-in-hand, as Adams and McGuinness did when the IRA was dying on its feet.

It is the most woolly nonsense to assume the Taleban may negotiate peace with those they have sworn to destroy. If indeed the British Foreign Secretary faces, as Maddox asserts, "the prospect of one day talking to the Taleban" then she is a fool. The Pakistani and Afghan governments cannot deal with the Taleban - indeed, Maddox cites Musharraf's failed deal on blocking foreign fighters into this area, but fails to appreciate how it completely undermines her whole point.

[Musharraf's] army is under such strain partly because of the separate tribal unrest in Baluchistan, a patch of trouble Musharraf ought to settle quickly and through political means, answering their grievances about their share of local gas revenues.

Well Bronwen, if he's been knocked on his backside and roundly mocked by the bad guys, how do you rate his chances of getting a deal to stick? What do you think they'd do with all that dough from gas, hmm?

In the cat-and-mouse game of Muslim conquerors throughout history, the Taleban do not speak from a unified position and they renege on undertakings whenever they feel like it. All who make possible organised violence from a fundamentalist Islamic motivation are Taleban.

A better understanding of the difference between locals and blow-ins, and smarter cultivation of the former and targetting of the latter, will make Afghanistan and the wilder fringes of Pakistan less receptive to the Taleban and al-Qaeda than they are. Maddox identifies this shortcoming but glosses over its importance in securing a lasting solution. Negotiation with an undisclosed spokesperson from a mobile phone would be fatuous, an exercise in both the impotence of Western institutions and in enhancing the wily Taleban as they play for time - time the Westerners don't have.

"There is no other possible position [fighting, not talking] on a day when a suicide bomber, claimed by the Taleban as one of theirs, tried to kill Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, at Bagram airbase near Kabul." Once you understand that such days are more typical than days of extended chats and commitments kept, the whole thing will hopefully become clearer to you Bronwen.

Afghanistan is one of the main games in the war on terror (Iraq isn't). Talks are an option after the Taleban have been destroyed as an operational force, not before.

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