Monday, April 19, 2010

"We’re going to break the Americans’ teeth.”

Thus said a Taliban spokesman in an interview with the Times of London, when asked about the upcoming (and well-advertised) NATO offensive in Kandahar this summer.

Bombast?  Perhaps.  Should the US ignore it?  Hardly.


Because according to a recent survey conducted under the auspices of the US Army, most Afghans in the Kandahar region have little trust in their own government's police and army - which, as the survey's authors note, “sets conditions for a disenfranchised population to respond either by not supporting the government due to its inability to deliver improvements in the quality of life or, worse yet, by supporting the Taliban.”

The interview also revealed that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar (and the Quetta shura) are willing to negotiate with the US/NATO forces.  The Taliban reportedly no longer wish to rule Afghanistan (they're content to "return to our madrasahs"), although they're unwilling to accept the "puppet government" of Hamid Karzai.

Do we want to trust in what Mullah Omar reportedly has offered?  Perhaps not - and it may well be that he may not be able to control all of the elements in Afghanistan that we now lump under the "Taliban" rubric.  Nonetheless, this may well be an opening that the US must pursue.  The "Taliban" are not some simple rag-tag bunch of Islamic extremists. They've come to embody for many Afghans the forces of resistance both to the NATO "outsiders" who now occupy their lands (many of them don't give a rat's behind about the "country" of Afghanistan), and to the corrupt security forces and political officials of the largely dysfunctional Karzai "government" in Kabul.

Yes, some of the Taliban's more extremist elements do horrible things to Afghans (women, most notably) who act in a manner that they deem "un-Islamic."  (To see some especially extreme cases of violence against women for which some Afghan - and Pakistani - men would likely claim Islamic sanction - even though the Quran contains absolutely no injunction to punish women in this fashion - I might direct your attention to a photo-essay on the effects of acid attacks on young women.  I advise caution: the photos are graphic, horrifying, infuriating, and absolutely heart-rending.)

But even with the most uplifting humanitarian intentions and promoting-American-values-and-human-rights zeal, the US military presence is not going to be able to stop this.  It may even retard change needed to stop it, which can only come from within Afghan society.  Much as we might like to, we cannot impose it.

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