Friday, February 27, 2009

Juan Cole on the "Taliban"

As usual, excellent insight from Juan Cole about the behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Taliban, but I especially want to highlight his description of who the "Taliban" exactly are these days - and point out how lame is the customary grouping of all of these elements as "terrorists." Disgruntled Pashtun villagers are hardly dyed-in-the-wool terrorists, for example, and the warlords Hikmatyar and Haqqani were once allies of the US. Hikmatyar in particular was perhaps the favorite warlord "hero" of US Congressman Charlie Wilson (of the book and movie "Charlie Wilson's War") during the era of the mujahideen resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. He is also a man of conspicuous brutality.

What we now call the "Taliban" are actually 5 distinct groups and movements: 1) The Old Taliban of Mulla Omar, now based in Quetta, Pakistan; 2) the Hizb-i Islami [Islamic Party] of former prime minister and warlord, Gulbadin Hikmatyar; 3) the followers of warlord Jalaluddin Haqqani; 4) the Taliban Movement of Pakistan in that country's tribal agencies; and 5) disgruntled Pushtun villagers who object to foreign troops on their soil or whose poppy crops were forcibly eradicated, leaving them destitute. Hikmatyar and Haqqani at one time or another were opposed to the Old Taliban, but have now allied with them. According to the Pajhwok News Network, a joint US and Afghan patrol targeted a militant of the Haqqani group near Khost on Thursday, capturing 6 militants and some light arms.

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