Feature

Talking to the Taliban

Has the death of Osama bin Laden and the rumored death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Oma given NATO some leverage?

Does NATO finally have the Taliban on the ropes? asked the Kabul Hasht-e Sobh in an editorial. At a recent news conference with President Hamid Karzai, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave the Taliban an ultimatum, telling them the time had come to lay down their arms, cut ties to terrorists, and pledge to support the constitution. “If you continue on the road of violence, you will find no victory, only defeat,” Rasmussen said. His firm tone was inspiring—and encouraging. It’s the first time a Western official has spoken “from the position of power,” instead of “imploring and appeasing” the Taliban. It looks like the death of Osama bin Laden, coupled with the recent disappearance and rumored death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, has “put the Taliban in Afghanistan in a delicate and difficult situation.” Finally, rather than cajoling the militants and calling them “brothers,” as Karzai has been apt to do, Afghan leaders and their Western allies can lay down the law.

Don’t be so sure, said Sayed Makarem in Arman-e Melli. According to local and international media reports, the Americans have “apparently initiated their own secret talks with Taliban leaders.” These negotiations make a mockery of the Afghan peace process, which is supposed to be overseen by our own High Peace Council. Are the Westerners cutting a side deal, telling the Taliban “that they are willing to share power”? Such an agreement “will never be acceptable to the Afghans, especially the new generation.” We have suffered so much over so many years, and we won’t allow those losses to be in vain. “Afghans believe it is better to die rather than live a life dominated by oppression.”

Yet the Afghan people are also tired of war, said Anis. After three decades of bloodshed, many of us would “welcome our former opponents into the peace process.” Wouldn’t it be a relief to live without the fear of “suicide bombers who come to our country to kill innocent civilians”? Can we imagine a life in which “no hospitals or schools are burned down”?

The problem is that the Taliban isn’t the only group killing innocent civilians, said Weesa. With their indiscriminate airstrikes, U.S. forces rain down death on our weddings and celebrations, and obliterate private homes in the night as families are sleeping. Afghan officials are trying to negotiate a strategic cooperation treaty that would require U.S. forces to limit their activities and be accountable to the Afghan government. But the U.S. “wants its forces to act as they please, as they have been doing in the past.” The people of Afghanistan “will never accept or tolerate” such a deal. Foreign military forces “are responsible for most of the suffering inflicted on the people in the past 10 years.” They must be held accountable.

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