Posts Tagged ‘Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’

Making Peace With the Taliban

January 25, 2010

Western officials and Afghan President Hamid Karzai hope that a peace agreement can be reached with the Taliban as a way of ending the insurgency in his country.  The topic will almost certainly be discussed at an upcoming conference in London where world leaders will confer about the future of Afghanistan and the eventual withdrawal of foreign military forces from the war-ravaged nation.

Gen. David Patraeus, the head of Central Command, told reporters that “The concept of reconciliation, of talks between senior Afghan officials and senior Taliban or other insurgent leaders, perhaps involving some Pakistani officials as well, is another possibility” when it comes to counterinsurgency efforts.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top commander in Afghanistan, said “I think any Afghans can play a role if they focus on the future and not the past” after he was asked if Taliban leaders should be allowed to serve in government posts.

But the prospects of a broad peace deal with the insurgents are slim for two main reasons.  One is that the insurgency is comprised of muliple factions with different aims and interests, including Mullah Omar’s Taliban, the Haqqani network and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG).  Mullah Omar and his comrades want to return to power in Kabul where they once governed before they were overthrown by the Northern Alliance with critical assistance from the US, whereas the Haqqani network is more like a criminal organization and HIG is a tool of warlord Gulbuddin Hekatyar.  All three factions have ties with Al Qaeda or have expressed support for the terrorist movement.  The situation is further complicated by the fact that various tribal leaders and other powerbrokers are connected with the insurgency out of loyalty, self-interest or fear, and it would be difficult for the central government to win their allegiance.

A second key reason that the outlook for a peace agreement is bleak is that the insurgents, many of whom are radical ideologues and hardcore nationalists, do not appear to be at all interested in laying down their arms.

Taliban spokesman Qari Mohammad Yousuf said “We cannot say how soon we will achieve victory.  Our mission is sacred.  Victory and defeat are in the hands of God.  But Afghans will defeat this regime as they did that of the Russian-backed regime.”

Mr. Hekmatyar also claims that the US will suffer the same fate in Afghanistan as the Soviet Union, which withdrew in defeat after 10 years of fighting guerillas.

Even if some sort of tentative peace pact or ceasefire were reached, it would likely be fleeting and merely give the Taliban and other anti-government forces the opportunity to regroup and rearm before returning to battle.  Offers of reconciliation may ultimately succeed in luring some low level fighters away from the insurgency, but militant leaders and most of their followers will probably reject such overtures for ideological, political and financial reasons.  Therefore, Western policymakers and Afghan officials should not be too optimistic that extending olive branches will bring an end to the war anytime soon.

The Two Talibans

October 23, 2009

Yesterday, the New York Times published an excellent piece by Scott Shane which analyzes the complexities of the insurgencies underway in the Afghanistan-Pakistan (AfPak) region (  Mr. Shane does a nice job of highlighting the differences between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban, which have similar ideologies but different strategic goals.  I highly recommend the article to anyone interested in learning more about the Af-Pak situation.

Ironically, the Pakistani Taliban might pose more danger to the Afghan Taliban than any other political force.  The Afghan Taliban currently have a sanctuary in the tribal regions of Pakistan which they use as a base to launch attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.  But the Pakistani Taliban, which share the same territorial haven, have been attacking government installations in Pakistan, and the Pakistani army recently responded by launching an offensive into militant-controlled areas.  The perception that the Pakistani Taliban is a grave threat to Pakistan’s national security is the only thing that could motivate the Pakistani military to occupy the tribal regions and take away the safe haven that the Afghan Taliban and other militant groups now possess. 

On another ironic note, the Pakistani Taliban might prove to be a great help to the US if they provoke the Pakistani establishment to make a sustained effort to eliminate the militant stronghold where the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda reside.  The only way that the American-led coalition can achieve its strategic objective in Afghanistan is for the Pakistani security forces to prevent the Afghan Taliban from using Pakistan’s tribal areas as an insurgent base, and the Pakistani Taliban might compel the Pakistani government to adopt such a policy.