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Monday, January 28, 2008

Good Taliban, Bad Taliban

In an interview in Davos, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai explains why he wants to make a deal with Taliban, at least some of them.

The use of extremism for any purpose is not going to get you that purpose. Therefore, it is going to hurt all of us, as it is now hurting Pakistan. The Taliban in their native form are orthodox, not extremists. They don’t have an ideology of hate against others or using weapons against others. Tali means a student of a religious school — becoming a learned person in religious matters. That is not radicalism. Radicalism is a motivational thing, inspired by a certain belief.

Unfortunately, this radicalism has been used as a tool by others over the past three decades, first by the West in the conflict with the Soviet Union when they supported the radical elements of the mujahideen; then, as Benazir Bhutto referred to, that tool was used for strategic depth. So, it is important to distinguish the two Talibans. For Pakistan and Afghanistan to have a relationship in which each is confident of the other, we have to go beyond this concept of strategic depth and the use of radical elements as agents on behalf of a broader political agenda. Afghanistan will give all it can by the way of assurances and guarantees that a stable, prosperous Afghanistan will be an asset for Pakistan, not somehow at odds with their interests. [War against terror is not in Afghanistan, but Pakistan - The Hindu]

Apparently he is fine with Talibani ideology. One wonder what he was fighting in the 1990s - surely not al-Qaeda, which was not ruling over Afghanistan then. Trying to break up Taliban may be wise strategy to pursue in order to beat it, but if it's ideology is given a pass, it may take over Afghanistan again, repeating the 90s all over again.