Saturday, October 25, 2003

TALIBAN'S COMEBACK: A couple of people have e-mailed me about different wire reports alleging that the Afghan government has been talking to "moderate" Taliban members in order to sway them to join the government and end the Taliban insurgence in southern provinces. I talked to several people who are more a bit more knowledgeable than me. This is what they had to say.

The Taliban is not only waging a guerilla war in the southern provinces of Zabul, Paktia and Kandahar, but has started a PR-offensive. The Taliban has come forward to journalists from several lesser-known news organizations and has been granting interviews to top officials. Balochistan and Waziristan are two provinces on the Pakistani side that have usually been totally closed off from Westerners and anyone from the Pakistani government. Things have changed though and now journalists are invited and talked to. The border towns on the Afghan-Pakistani border are solid staging grounds for Taliban and al-Qaeda who then infiltrate into Afghanistan.

The Afghan government and Western officials (Zalmay Khalilzad being the prime and only suspect) are seeking the cooperation of "moderate" Taliban officials (and this is surely not the first time) like Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil. Two reasons: The Bush administration has growing frustrated with the inability of restoring order in areas outside of the capital, even sending American troops to fight Taliban insurgents, and looked for other solutions. The second reasons: the present government in Kabul is far from being accepted by the Pashtuns in the south as adequately representing their interests. Having failed thus far in its efforts to find Pashtun political leaders, who would be acceptable to their community and at the same time be attentive to the interests of the West, they turned to earlier discarded ideas. But who's behind the new idea? Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf's idea of seeking the cooperation of what Musharraf describes as moderate Taliban was floated earlier to prevent the Northern Alliance from entering Kabul, something Musharraf feared would cause civil unrest in his own country. This, in addition to an expanded ISAF-force, is hoped to bring stability. Success is all but guaranteed mainly because the Taliban has a complex web of leadership.

Attention has turned to Iraq. The result? Better and more Taliban-cadres safely operating from their sanctuaries in Pakistan, with Musharraf unable and unwilling to move against them.

UPDATE: My prediction of what's going to happen to Muttawakil? Exile. Maybe Britain or some Arab country.

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