Dec 30 at 9:09am by David Tate
There is little doubt that in order to progress in Afghanistan the Taliban will have to be involved in negotiations with the government, and whether directly or not, leadership within the International Security Assistance Force.
The fact is, those fighting coalition forces are not so much Al Qaeda as they are young hired guns or nationalistic Pashtuns concerned their culture is under attack from the west. The enemy that the coalition has been pursuing has changed, and so must efforts to fix the problem.
As I’ve always espoused, there are no simple fixes in this country, nor is there just one solution. Afghanistan is a puzzle that requires patience and an unorthodox vision for success. Part of that success, no matter how you slice it, will require the cooperation of “The Taliban”.
That in itself presents a huge challenge. ‘Who is the Taliban?’ should be the first question asked. When you see that noun tossed around the media in such a blanket fashion, you couldn’t be blamed for believing “The Taliban” is just one organization… and they are not.
So when you say, “Let’s talk to the Taliban”, or “It’s a mistake to talk to the Taliban”, it’s really a loaded question that cannot properly be answered within that context. “The Taliban” could be Islamic extremists that just want westerners out. They could be Arabs hellbent on killing westerners. They could be shepherds who need the money or who are avenging a family member killed in an errant air strike. Or they could be one of a large portion of the male population that are concerned the west is trying to change their way of life. The possibilities go on and on.
The biggest obstacle to talking with the Taliban is western perception that you are dealing with terrorists if you do. That perception needs to be dismantled for the above mentioned examples. The Afghan government and coalition leaders need to make efforts to divide “The Taliban” between those with cultural/domestic issues and those with extremist and criminal incentives. Dividing the enemy is half the battle, you just have to understand what’s going on first.
The door appears to be opening for talks with some elements of “The Taliban”. Rumors (which are likely true) that the Karzai government has been secretly negotiating with “The Taliban” have since progressed into recent news that the overtures may be finally paying off. Much of the talk has been about the Taliban setting up in a neutral, third country to help facilitate safety during talks. This is a good thing and should be looked at carefully. President Karzai thinks so too and has now openly embraced the idea of setting the Taliban up in Turkey. All with the active work of Turkey’s Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan.
In order for the west to succeed in Afghanistan the elements need to be in place that can allow that country to function well enough to keep terrorists from once again using it as a launching pad for international attacks. Period. That’s the end game. Problem is, if we don’t get everyone on board, it will never be achieved. With that said, westerners need to get a grip on the culture that we are dealing with here and realize that talking must be in the cards.
If you think anything can get done using force alone… you are mistaken. A recent article in National Geographic by Elizabeth Rubin may illustrate what faces the west in Afghanistan best. The article, called “Changing Lives of Afghan Women”, illustrates just one of many significant hurdles facing the west. However, one story caught my eye that, I think, truly illustrates what lies ahead in order to achieve success.
In the article, Rubin relays a story she heard in a women’s shelter in Kabul. She talks about a girl, from a well-to-do southern family who fell in love with a boy from another tribe. In the end, the girl’s father killed the boy and four of his brothers. Then, when he found out his own mother helped his daughter escape, he killed her too. The girl is now on the run with a $100,000 dollar bounty on her head.
Rubin writes that the foundation of a man’s honor in Afghanistan consists of gold, land and women. Within that foundation includes hospitality, shelter and justice or revenge.
Mix this code, called pashtunwali, in with the scars of three decades of war and you can start to understand the big picture.
Quoting Sahera Sharif, a female parliament member from Khost province, Rubin later summed it up, in my opinion: “Much of the violence and cruelty you see now is because people are crazy from all these wars.”
Stopping this cycle will be difficult, but for the majority of the Afghan people – and the sake of the entire region and world – the cycle must be stopped.
Dec 10 at 1:01pm by David Tate
Hey everyone. All is well going into the holidays as I am spending a lot of time with Davin. In the meantime, I am halfway through a three year contract with WSET-TV, which is also going well. Still haven’t made the decision whether or not I will return to Afghanistan in 2012 on a full time basis. Funding, as always, is the issue. Get that resolved and I’m in.
With that said, I am looking for a business partner, with capital, interested in launching a webmag based on my concept, “A Battlefield Tourist”. I know this model will work – the years of testing it have proven so. Interested? Let me know. I have costs to minimal amount with plenty of upside potential.
Enough of that….
My current employer, WSET-TV puts together a special every December that honors local vets. Check out this year’s stories. They are very good. Mine is about one of the few African-American soldiers to hit Omaha Beach on DDay. Enjoy!