Dienstag, 11. September 2012

Is a Ceasefire With the Taleban Possible?

This RUSI report [pdf] occupied me for the last hour or so and I thought it worth sharing. Now, by and large I have enormous respect for RUSI and most of what is being published there is outstanding. This report, however, is a bit awkward, though not necessarily misguided. It is kind of strange to see four scholars interviewing four Taleban or Taleban-associated players and coming away with some very general, far-reaching conclusions. Basically that it is time to negotiate a ceasefire with the Taleban, a ceasefire, moreover, that would only need Mullah Omar's endorsement to take hold. There are a couple of things that give me pause. On facebook a colleague pointed out how strange it is for a Taleban-associated political player to use a reference to the British Tory-LibDem government to compare the inner workings of the Afghan Taleban. And in fact it is. If its an accurate portrayal of the conversation, the interviewee is probably living in the UK, which raises some questions on which authority he can actually give insight into the inner workings of the organisation. I have argued repeatedly, and so have many other before and after me, that there is actually no Taleban. The Taleban are a highly fractured movement and it remains debatable to what extent Mullah Omar actually is in control. Omar, that much the report does acknowledge, would hardly be in a position to speak for the Haqqani network, operating out of Pakistan. And how a ceasefire would translate to Pakistani politics in the region is an entirely different, though highly important question. Can the Taleban maintain any cohesion once the war comes to a hold, or would it not fracture even more and hence render the ceasefire useless in the first place? This, after all, is a war we find ourselves in, but its not a war that will end with our withdrawal. And the report does not go into detail when it comes to the areas that actually are in control of the Taleban. There, it seems, the group is imposing policies that would take the country right back to the 1990s (and theirs wasn't the good nineties). But even if this report accurately reflects the position of some Taleban figures, it leaves some open questions, all of them hard to untangle. Would the Taleban be willing to demobilise? Probably not. Would the Taleban acknowledge secular law? Surely not. Would the Taleban, if the would allow elections, allow women to vote? Almost certainly not. Would the Taleban allow for non-Muslims to run for office? You want to hold your breath? The bottom line is this: Some negotiations will have to take place and sooner rather than later. But this report reads a little to perfect to be accurate.

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