Aug 28, 2008

A day with drama team

Mozhgan: usually people threaten me in numerous ways like casting letters in my house or calling me through mobile phones, they are saying: "stop working in TV dramas or else you will be killed"

Aug 15, 2008

Talking to the Taliban is Foolish

By Safrang

Finally, a voice of reason in the “let’s negotiate with the Taliban” hysteria. From Samina Ahmed, South Asia project director of International Crisis Group:

Talking to the Taliban is foolish
By Samina Ahmed
Financial Times
Published: July 24 2008

As the insurgency ramps up, support for “talking to the Taliban” in Afghanistan is increasing. Voices in the United Nations and in Europe favour a new set of negotiations between civil society, political parties and the insurgents, and it is a natural reflex to seek a way out of a seemingly intractable conflict by exploring all available political solutions. But while negotiations are credible and acceptable if they help resolve conflict and save lives, that will not be the case in Afghanistan’s current environment.

The problems begin with identifying those who would be involved in a “new dialogue process”. Afghan civil society is weak at best, and political parties, which have been completely undermined by lack of domestic and international support, are in no position to lobby or feed constructively into national policy formation. And who would represent “the Taliban”? The UN Security Council has formally castigated Mullah Omar and most of his Kandahari leadership, and removing them from the list will not happen quickly. The US, at least, is unlikely to play ball.

The British have suggested talking with mid-level commanders, but it is hard to see how that would address the threats the insurgency poses to Afghan citizens and the state. The likely result would in fact resemble the Musa Qala disaster, a temporary truce UK forces made with the Taliban that strengthened the Taliban’s position by providing them space to regroup and attack again. A “new dialogue process” would offer them this on a national scale. If the British have not learnt much from Musa Qala, neither it seems has the UN.

Nor would such a dialogue address the cross-border aspects of the violence and Pakistan’s formal or informal role in supporting the Afghan Taliban insurgency. Without stemming this, the chances are even greater that an agreement would be a temporary refuelling exercise for the Taliban.

It is far from clear, moreover, that the Afghan government, which cannot survive without substantial international military backing, could implement an accord on its own, provided one is reached at all. And if the outside world has to oversee implementation and enforcement anyway, this hardly meshes with the belief that Afghan patience with international military forces is exhausted – one of the driving ideas behind the talk of a “new dialogue process” – let alone the fact that the Taliban’s primary goal is to oust the international presence entirely.

Most importantly, however, is the basic nature of the enemy some would do a deal with. The Taliban thoroughly reject all the work the international community has done in Afghanistan since the end of 2001. At present, the Taliban top leadership appears to have little interest in negotiations other than on its terms, which include the withdrawal of foreign troops and the re-creation of a Taliban-style “Islamic” state. Would the international community stand by as the Taliban deprived Afghan women and girls of even the basic rights they have acquired since the Taliban’s ousting?

Yet another concern is that negotiations with the Taliban from the internationals’ and Kabul’s current position of weakness would resemble the Pakistani military’s counter-insurgency approach: short-sighted accords that concede territory and political authority to militants. These accords have only undermined the writ of the state and empowered insurgents.

Yes, military force alone is clearly insufficient. And yes, negotiations take time and must begin somewhere. But it is wishful thinking to assume that negotiating with insurgents from a position of weakness would stabilise Afghanistan. Obviously, the international community wants to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible, but this is no way to go about it.

Instead of seeking quick fixes, international attention should focus on a comprehensive strategy with broad-based nation-building at its core. Instead of seeking exit strategies, international troops should remain so long as Afghan security forces, civilian and military, are incapable of protecting the lives of citizens and the security of the state. A new robust military commitment – not just in terms of numbers but also appropriate force structures, configurations and mandates – is the way to go.

If we let Afghanistan sink now, the revitalised Taliban will only come to dominate the country, bringing back all the problems that forced the international community to get involved in the first place.


As the blog ThePolitic put it a while ago, why not simply ask the question like this:

“Negotiate with theocracy that seeks to keep women subservient to men and uneducated, and kill anyone who converts to another religion?”

And then some; i.e. engage in ethnic cleansing, undo virtually all the progressive clauses of the constitution, and marginalize all minorities.

My advice is, get real, people. You may be fooling yourselves, but you ain’t fooling neither the Taliban nor the majority of the people of Afghanistan. Maybe you can appease the Taliban, but that comes at the cost of a fatal blow to the nascent and fledgling democracy in Afghanistan and the alienation of more than half of the country. What then? re-negotiate with them? I mean I am all for inclusion and widening the political spectrum -but consider how would a proposition like this would offend the liberal sensibilities of those who are currently beating the drums of negotiation the hardest: in the aftermath of WWII, what the Germans and the Allies should have done is to have negotiated with the remnants of the Nazis and the fascists instead of trying them in Nuremberg. What all these talking heads are proposing in Afghanistan is no less.

Aug 14, 2008

Taliban: a social force or vacuum filler

By Sanjar

I don’t believe Taliban are a social force with an agenda and connected with locality, instead I think Taliban are the harshest form of a resistance movement which is created when the country is in a political vacuum. Their arbitrary and cruel methods of compelling order is imposed when the society fails to find any workable agenda. Taliban are not a unique creation, political history is full of movements which emerged after the ascribed socio-political systems constantly failed, these movements such as Wahabis in early twenty century Arabia are cruel and despotic. Taliban emerged in 1994 after Mujahideen tyranny and failure of half a dozen governments before them. Taliban offered no better life than Mujaheeden, but they were more arbitrary and cruel while Mujahideen were simply corrupt and this is why I think Taliban managed to rule. Taliban are returning again; this time people know what they are expecting, there is no dream and no hope, nobody expect Taliban to be anything else than Taliban.

Lutz Rzehak, a professor from Humboldt University in Berlin, gathered data about Taliban in Nimroz Province, a southwestern region, much of it desert, that borders both Iran and Pakistan. Instead of security, the Taliban brought Nimroz a grotesque parody of government. Nimroz is interesting to read because this is not a pashtoon province where Taliban support rests most.

when Taliban first captured Nimroz, in first half of the 1990s, they sent in a governor who had family roots in Nimroz but couldn't speak the local language. Like many Taliban, he had been brought up speaking Urdu in Pakistan. For his own convenience, he made Urdu the language of administration. Those who couldn't speak Urdu, which meant most of the residents, were turned away when they applied for government help. There were three more governors between the years 1995-2001. Two of them, both the products of Afghan enclaves in Pakistan, are remembered as barbarous and, when it came to local customs, woefully ignorant.

One carried a stick and struck people with it. He also burned down the library, with its 15,000 books. Next came a mullah who concentrated on amassing a personal fortune by running drugs across the border and confiscating property. He fled when the American bombs began falling in November, 2001. Taliban made villagers pay 25% of their harvest to support Taliban war or give a girl to be wedded to a Talib soldier as a prize. Taliban did not organise the community in anyway to implement a public project, nothing was done for the province.
Nimroz public know the Taliban very well and they have suffered at their hands, yet they are seeing the return of the Taliban with the same old face.

In 2008, sad to say, the revived Taliban are again active in Nimroz. They encourage opium growers and then seize part of their profits. They also deploy human bombs. In recent weeks, Taliban has captured some district centres, kidnapped aid workers; two Taliban suicide bombers attacked in Nimroz, one killed an Afghan soldier and a baby; the other wounded a Canadian soldier.

The return of the Taliban in Nimroz is the direct consequence of the failure of current government. One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure out the government is a failure; it was just last weak that a humanitarian assistance group warned over the worsen situation that would hamper their assistance in parts of the country which has been considered safe. On 24th of June, international crisis group published a report warning that Taliban are also winning the propaganda war. A quick skim of the news in the last few months will show you that the situation has actually got worst; month by month and also over the last few years. Difficult
The return of the Taliban sadly means that there is no political force to prevent their infiltration, the collapse of the power structure in the community means the return of the Taliban. Taliban seem to be the default option of the community. Taliban are not raising from within communities like Nimroz but rather extending themselves to it. Nimroz is not a Pashtoon province like Helmand, Kandahar, Khost or many other Taliban sympathetic provinces. Nimroz is neither attractive nor attracting Taliban, the province is at the bottom of poppy production list, a strong tendency among the community or a strong Narcotic business support for Taliban versus government doesn’t exist. Support for Taliban exists in poppy provinces, the community and Business need Taliban to protect them against government poppy eradication attempts. The taxation paid from poppy money helps to foster local Taliban group.

The international intervention since 2001 seems to not have affected the social infrastructure nor do the way people live in Nimroz. The moment the government is weakened, doors open for Taliban. It’s a return to ten years ago and what has allegedly achieved by international community made no change to ordinary life or at least the way of living and thinking. All this in a province which is not considered Taliban province, the return to pre international intervention is taking place not because the community prefer Taliban but rather they are understood better than modern form of governments. This could be applied broadly to the country when trying to visualise a post international intervention scenario. Once the international community leave Afghanistan for Afghans, which will clearly happen one day, then the volatile government legacy might not last long. Some will oppose the government because they are not politically represented and they are the Pashtoon Taliban sympathisers; the second half of the country will be run over by Taliban, places like Nimroz, because Taliban can impose themselves on the community than any government system.