Mr. President, What is a Moderate Taliban?
President Barack Obama had an interesting take on the situation on the ground in Afghanistan during his interview with Helene Cooper and Sheryl Gay Stolberg in The New York Times yesterday:
Asked if the United States was winning in Afghanistan, a war he effectively adopted as his own last month by ordering an additional 17,000 troops sent there, Mr. Obama replied flatly, “No.”
Mr. Obama said on the campaign trail last year that the possibility of breaking away some elements of the Taliban “should be explored,” an idea also considered by some military leaders. But now he has started a review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan intended to find a new strategy, and he signaled that reconciliation could emerge as an important initiative, mirroring the strategy used by Gen. David H. Petraeus in Iraq.
“If you talk to General Petraeus, I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of Al Qaeda in Iraq,” Mr. Obama said.
At the same time, he acknowledged that outreach may not yield the same success. “The situation in Afghanistan is, if anything, more complex,” he said. “You have a less governed region, a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes, and so figuring all that out is going to be much more of a challenge.”
For American military planners, reaching out to some members of the Taliban is fraught with complexities. For one thing, officials would have to figure out which Taliban members might be within the reach of a reconciliation campaign, no easy task in a lawless country with feuding groups of insurgents.
And administration officials have criticized the Pakistani government for its own reconciliation deal with local Taliban leaders in the Swat Valley, where Islamic law has been imposed and radical figures hold sway. Pakistani officials have sought to reassure administration officials that their deal was not a surrender to the Taliban, but rather an attempt to drive a wedge between hard-core Taliban leaders and local Islamists.
Wouldn’t this had been like reaching out to “moderate Nazis” in 1943? I’m not clear on what a moderate Taliban looks like. Would he be just semi-ruthless and only cut off one hand of his victim? How does a moderate Taliban treat women? Does he allow them to speak but must still wear a burka?
There are some elements on this planet that do not deserve the luxury of negotiation. The Taliban is one of the most ruthless, despotic group of terrorists the world has seen since Stalin and Pol Pot.
Here’s what Amy Waldman of The New York Times wrote about the Taliban and the Sharia code it brutally enforces in November 2001:
The code’s first article says that if a woman leaves home with her face unveiled, ”her home will be marked, and her husband punished.” Other articles delineate banned behaviors and possessions. Any man who wears his hair ”Beatle-ly” will be arrested and have his head shaved.
Those who fly pigeons — a favorite Afghan pastime — will be imprisoned until ”their pigeons disappear from their home.” Female doctors must wear old clothes and no ornamentation. Male doctors who must treat a female patient because of a medical emergency ”can only look at the part that the patient needs looked at; nowhere else can be touched or seen.”
A kite seller will be imprisoned for three days. The owner of a house will be punished if women are heard singing during a wedding. No images or photographs are to be posted in public places. The following are considered ”unclean things”: ”pork, pig, pig oil, anything made from human hair, satellite dishes, cinematography, any equipment that produces the joy of music, pool tables, chess, masks, alcohol, tapes, computer, VCR’s, televisions, anything that propagates sex and is full of music, wine, lobster, nail polish, firecrackers, statues, sewing catalogs, pictures, Christmas cards.”
Nothing was left to chance or the imagination under the Taliban. Merchants importing products like shampoo would find that Taliban customs officials had gouged out the eyes of the female models on the boxes. The merchants were then required to display the products with black tape over female faces, or be subject to a beating or jailing.
Here is the Taliban at work executing two women:
So, where are the moderate elements of this ban of thugs?