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Afghanistan: Dialogue with the Taliban will be fruitless

28 May 2011

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Mail Today, 28 May 2011

DIALOGUE WILL BE A FRUITLESS EFFORT

by Dr Hussain Yasa

Last Saturday, German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the US was involved in talks with the Taliban.

The talks, the magazine said, is reportedly being facilitated by Germany, which is to host the second Bonn conference on December 5, this year.

A week later, news agency PTI reported that the UK, too, is keen to enter into dialogue with the moderate Taliban. This possibly follows in the footsteps of a meeting earlier this week between US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, where both agreed to open discussion with the faction of the Taliban which has broken up with the al- Qaeda.

Contrary to popular belief, the UK, the US or Germany are not the first ones to moot this idea of talking to the so- called moderate Taliban. Earlier, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Maldives and Turkey too had been involved in mediating peace with the Taliban.

As far as the Afghan government is concerned, it has been involved in such a peace process since 2004. Statistics show that over 9,000 insurgents had laid down their weapons and returned to normal life ever since the initiative kicked off.

But the ground reality paints a different picture, where the situation has become bloodier with each passing year.

Let us analyse this from another angle.

The fall of the Taliban at the end of 2001 saw the world community and various Afghan factions get together in Bonn to sign an agreement which led the Afghans to enter a new era of their history, albeit under the heavy presence of allied forces.

However, the agreement was signed in the absence of the Taliban and the Hizbe Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. It is these outfits who have been involved in acts of insurgency in Afghanistan in the past 10 years.

In 2001, the international coalition force landed in Afghanistan with the UN mandate to dismantle the Taliban- al Qaeda terrorist network. But within a couple of years, the international community realised that the war cannot be won in the battlefield alone.

During this time it was felt that holding the Bonn Conference without the Taliban was a mistake. So this time around the US and the UK are perhaps out to correct that mistake. They have decided to bring the Taliban to the discussion table in the upcoming Bonn Conference.

But before that happens, a lot of questions need to be answered. First of all it is not clear who they want to talk to in the Taliban. Do the people, who claim to be Taliban negotiators, really represent those who are engaged in acts of violence against innocent civilians, the Afghan government and the coalition forces? Do they believe that talking to the so- called Taliban, who are engaged in talks for some years now, really help in bringing down the graph of insurgency? Is the real Taliban, which is associated with the al- Qaeda and conducting massive destruction, ready to talk with the US? And what about those who suffered at the hands of the Taliban and were opposed to its way of life? Surprisingly, the Afghan government seems to be sharing a sentiment similar to that of the US and the UK ( to get the Taliban to the discussion table). This despite the fact that in the past one year, since the Peace Jirga had passed a resolution backing a peace deal with the Taliban, data shows there has been an increase in terrorist activities by the outfit.

It is important to mention that in June 2010, the same Jirga was rocketed by the Taliban as a sign of distrust.

Many believe the one- way effort to resolve the conflict is not producing any results. There is no doubt the real Taliban wants nothing else than a complete implementation of the Sharia and a total withdrawal of the coalition forces. This it will pursue with dictatorial zeal.

It does not recognise the diversity of Afghanistan and just wants to repeat the same cycle of tyranny. Classifying the Taliban between Pakistani and Afghan or that of moderate, innocent and hardliner will only be followed by confusion and disappointment.

The frustration of the international community over the ongoing conflict is understandable. It is also true that dialogue might be the only way forward, but durable settlement cannot be achieved by outward and temporary approach.

The values and the diversity of the country and its people should not be sacrificed just to appease the Taliban. Otherwise, another chapter of turmoil will be opened. The world and the Afghans do not have the patience and the time to tackle another series of tragedies and catastrophes in Afghanistan.

Dr Hussain Yasa is the chief editor of the daily Outlook Afghanistan.

He can be reached at yasa at outlookafghanistan.com