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Published On:04 July 2011
Posted by Indian Muslim Observer

GUEST EDITORIAL: Taliban, Are they Good or Bad? The American Somersault

By Kaleem Kawaja

The Taliban phenomenon in Afghanistan first came into being as a definitive foreign policy initiative of US President Ronald Regan in the early 1980s, as an effort to drive out the Soviet military machine from Afghanistan where at that time they were well entrenched. The ragtag Afghan Mujahideen gurillas were fighting with their backs to the wall against the mighty Soviet military machine, often using the nationalist message of Islam to repel the infidel invaders. However being woefully inadedquate in arms and the huge supplies that a war of that proportion demands, they were going exactly nowhere. That is when Regan launched the massive campaign to fund the Mujahideen gurillas with unlimited arms and supplies in order to cow down the Soviet Union, the other superpower then. One key weapon supplied by US to the Afghans was the deadly shoulder-fired Stinger missile that was so effective in knocking military aircarfts out of the sky. Since Pakistani territory was the only route to send those huge supplies to the Afghan fighters, Regan embraced Pakistan's President Gen Zia ul Haq and persuaded him to let northwestern Pakistan be converted into a staging area for sending the war supplies to the Afghan Mujahideen and to serve as a sanctuary for them.

Living in Washington DC in those days I have vivid recollection of frequent media reports complete with photographs of visits by the military and political leaders of the Mujahideen to the White House, audiences with President Regan and photo opportunity sessions that were emblazoned across the TV screens and front pages of newspapers. Despite a huge cultural gap between the low brow orthox-religious Afghans and the secular high brow Americans, the Regan Administration praised the Afghans profusely describing them in glowing terms as Freedom Fighters. Those Mujahideen fighters who were the first Taliban were glorified by the Regan Administration in superlative terms. At the same time a huge influx of Afghan refugees arrived and settled down in major US cities including in Washington DC. I recall how a large number of Afghan kabob restasurants mushroomed in the metro Washington DC in the mid1980s, where earlier there was only one Afghan restaurant by the name of Bamiyan in Georgetown.

As the decade of the 1980s drew to a close, the Soviet army withdrew from Afghanistan, and President Regan retired, the US Administration lost interest in Afghanistan and left it to the infighting of the local warlords. That decade long civil war played havoc with huge sections of ordinary Afghan people. Each warlord ran a brutal local regime. abducting anyone's daugher or sister at will, killing civilians just to show their power and cultivating huge poppy crops that were used to make hashish and other drugs that brought them bug money. To show their power they ransacked schools, often shooting down and brutalizing the teachers. In the major cities of Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad, Mazar Shareef people were afraid to step out in the streets in daylight. There was neither any government nor police nor court, nor any fear of the wrath of Allah. And worst was the fact that the civilized world and America that had shown so much concern when the Soviet military was occupying Afghanistan, could not care less at this daylight mayhem.

That is when in the mid-1990s some of the erstwhile Mujahideen - Taliban who had earlier fought to liberate Afghanistan from Soviets, even though low on funding and means, decided to make a push and fight the warlords to restore basic law and order. They were eminently successful and soon drove out the warlords and thugs into a northern corner of the country. They put a stop to brutalities, lawlessness, growing of poppy, sale of drugs, abduction of women etc. I recall that in those mid-1990s many senior policymakers in the government in Washington praised the Taliban for their efforts at eliminating the civil war and bringing in some law and order. During the first term of President Bill Clinton, government agencies held many parleys with the Taliban Afghan government in partnership with the Pakistan government.

However, for all the good that Taliban did in improving the lives of ordinary Afghans they made several blunders. The mainstream of Taliban though religiously orthodox at that time was not extremist in its thinking. That mainstream kept the extremist elements at bay. But soon the extremist Taliban overpowered the mainstream and in the name of Islam unleashed an intolerant regime. The worst was the subjugation of women, preventing them from schools/colleges and employment outside their homes. It should be noted that in the 1960s-1970s durng the reign of King Zahir Shah when the government was under Communist influence a lot of women were enouraged to acquire professional education eg medicine, engineering etc and were working in government departments. The sudden confining of all women to their houses was not only mindless it also caused much economic harm to the country.

Soon the extremist elements in Taliban went berseek, hobnobbing with Al Qaeda and other undesirable and violent elements and enacting insane actions like the disfiguring of the ancient Buddha statues carved in a mountainside in Bamiyan. Overt opposition of Shia Muslims was practiced. The same Taliban that had brought so much good name to the Islamic system by implementing simple social justice for the powerless and poor people of Afghanistan, gave an opportunity to the enemies of Islam to decry the Islamic methodology. More than anything their harsh actions became a mockery of the egalitarian core of Islam. Also they gave an opportunity to the enemies of Islam in America to launch a decade long war on Afghanistan that has caused so many deaths and so much destruction. America declared that the Taliban were an evil force that must be subjugated for the betterment of mankind.

But after a decade of war, 2000 of its soldiers dead and a trillion dollar of the war expenditure that has hurt the US national economy, the American people see neither any benefit from this senseless war nor any end in sight. In America itself there are few takers of the propaganda that this war is about bringing democracy in Afghanistan. Indeed most Americans have realized that the culture and way of life of Afghanistan is a centuries old, and very different from the modern culture of America. Most of them are questioning why should Afghanistan not be left to its culture and way of life as long as it does not harm other countries, rather than make it adopt the American model?

As he came into power as US President, President Obama played a strange game. Because of him being a colored person and his reputation as a liberal and facing much opposition from the conservatives he adopted many of the agenda items from them. Like Ronald Regan before him, he tried to show that he too wants America to be militarily victorious in the world. But the only thing he managed to do was to transform America into a warring nation that continues its war machine, and that too much against the wishes of majority of Americans. Surely Americans do not see their nation as a warrior nation.

In the war in Afghanistan itself for a couple of years now there are no reports of victories against the Taliban or the killing of a sizeable number of Taliban soldiers. Other than talk continually about strategy the Pentagon seems to be largely in a defensive posture and has very little to show for real military gains on the ground. Meanwhile seeing the direction in which the wind is blowing Afghan President Karzai himself has talked increasingly of a reconciliation with the Taliban for over a year now. And to get ready for the 2012 US election Obama is very keen to start drawing down the Afghan war and bringing troops home.

However to sell this withdrawl strategy and to answer the questions from the American voters as to why America is not trying to liquidate the previously demonized Taliban, the American policymakers have come up woth another smart strategy. That strategy calls for declaring that due to the efforts of US many of the previously bad Taliban have actually become less-bad so that US can negotiate with them. President Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Gates and other top US officials are increasingly saying thsat the majority of Taliban are good peoploe with whom US can co-exist. Thus the American policy in Afghanistan is now entering a full circle by painting most Taliban as good or tolerable people. And the American media that prides itself for independence is happily supporting this major policy somersault

Without doubt the nationalist Afghans who presented themselves as Taliban made mindless blunders that gave opportunities to their enemies to cause grievous physical and ideological harm to them and to the Islamic system. America too made serious mistakes that caused grievous loss to the American nation, and that is now forcing it to play this new somersault to extricate itself from further bleeding.

[Kaleem Kawaja is a community activist in Washington DC. He can be reached on: kaleemkawaja@gmail.com]

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Posted by Indian Muslim Observer on July 04, 2011. Filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Feel free to leave a response

By Indian Muslim Observer on July 04, 2011. Filed under , , , . Follow any responses to the RSS 2.0. Leave a response

1 comments for "GUEST EDITORIAL: Taliban, Are they Good or Bad? The American Somersault"

  1. Question is who radicalized the Taliban? Often, we hear people blaming the US for the creation of Taliban and Al Qaieda when all that US did during the Soviet-Afghan war was to help fight the Afghans against the foreign army; all that it did to provide funds, arms and ammunition to the Afghan Mujahdins to free their country form the Soviets. And this the US did with the help of the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI who was majorly involved in training of the Afghan Mujahids. The idea of Jihad, the holy war against the Soviet's was actually mooted by the then ISI chief who was heard screaming, Afghanistan must burn! It was the ISI which radicalized the Afghan Mujhadin's to maintain its hold on Afghanistan for its own vested interests. After the Soviet's left, ISI should have dismantled the mujahid militias but again for its own vested interests it continued with its culture of radicalization on religion lines of Afghan Mujahids. The ISI saw an opportunity in having battled hardened Mujahids who it later sent to Kashmir with an aim to secede it from India. The mujahid were falsely told that Islam in Kashmir is under threat and it must be liberated resulting in the genocide of Kashmiri pundits in the Kashmir valley followed by their mass exodus. After the Soviet's left Pakistan opened up its gates for Afghan Mujahids and put them in various training camps that mushroomed up after the Svoeit's withdrawal. These training camps both in NWFP and Pakistan occupied Kashmir were then used as launch pads to wage a proxy war against India. Had it not been for the 9/11 the dirty games that Pakistan and its intelligence agency the ISI had been playing all along since the Soviet war began would never have come to light. When America invaded Afghanistan in search of Al Qaieda fugitive Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan not only provided shelter to both Taliban and Al Qaieda but provided logistical and moral support to them to fight NATO forces. Pakistan cheated the west on both the occasions-during Soviet Afghan war and later in War Against Terror. So its erroneous to blame the US for Taliban and Al Qaieda. It was and is Pakistan all along, and it is Pakistan behind radicalization of Muslims in all over the Europe and America! Any war against terror or any attempts to solve address the issue of radical Islam first must have Pakistan on its priority. Pakistan is the root of evil of religious extremism and terrorism that is sweeping the world at the moment. It must be dealt with and fast!

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