[pjw] INFO: We now feel the consequences of marginalising the Taliban (Al Jazeera 9/3)
Peace and Justice Works
pjw at pjw.info
Sun Sep 5 15:11:33 EDT 2021
We got a link to this opinion piece from our friend Zaher Wahab. I think
it's helpful in assessing where Afghanistan is and how the US contributed.
peace and justice works iraq affinity group
We now feel the consequences of marginalising the Taliban
After the US-led invasion, the Taliban could have been included in the
new state-building effort. They weren't, and now we suffer for it.
Hujjatullah Zia A Kabul-based journalist
3 Sep 2021 Opinion
As the world is coming to grips with the sudden change of regime in
Afghanistan, it is important to reflect on what led to this point. So
far analyses have focused on the corruption and weakness of the Afghan
state set up after the US-NATO invasion of the country in 2001 and on
the disarray in the Afghan armed forces.
But it is important to consider another aspect of the story - the
Taliban's refusal to negotiate with the Afghan government, which it saw
as illegitimate and its determination to wipe it out. Why was the group
so relentless on this?
Much of it has to do with decisions that were made mainly by the
invading Western forces and their Afghan allies in the 2000s to exclude
the Taliban from the nation-building experiment they launched.
In December 2001, a few weeks after the Western forces and their Afghan
allies took Kabul from the Taliban, a conference was held in Bonn,
Germany to set up the new Afghan government. Attendees included the
Northern Alliance, which fought alongside the Western allies, the
Peshawar Group of Pakistan-exiled Afghan Pashtuns, the Rome Group of
royalists, and the Cyprus Group of Afghans with ties to Iran.
The Taliban, however, was not invited and decisions about the first
steps of building the Afghan state were taken without it.
Then in 2002, an emergency Loya Jirga (grand national assembly) was
convened, where a transitional government led by Hamid Karzai was
elected. The Taliban once again was not invited.
In 2003, a Constitutional Commission was set up to start the
constitution drafting process, including public consultations, but
again the Taliban was excluded from these proceedings. The constitution
was passed by a Loya Jirga in 2004, with its provisions guaranteeing
women's fundamental rights and liberties, reflecting democratic
principles and expressing the commitment of the new government to the
United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The consequences of the Taliban's exclusion from the post-2001 power
arrangement have been significant. The Taliban could neither tolerate
this marginalisation from the social and political decision-making in
Kabul, nor reconcile its hardline ideology with constitutional rights
Feeling sidelined at the national and international level, the Taliban
regrouped and relaunched offensive attacks against the Afghan
government and its Western allies. In the following years, the Taliban
inflicted heavy casualties and unnecessary pain and suffering on the
Afghan people. It showed no signs of moderating its hardline position
One could argue that the inclusion of the Taliban in the Bonn
Conference would have been problematic and the Northern Alliance would
have sought to block it, while families of Taliban victims would have
Taliban presence in the Loya Jirga deliberating the constitution could
also have been a barrier to approving the provisions granting women
their rights and liberties and protecting human rights in general.
Nonetheless, it is possible that the inclusion of the Taliban in the
2001 administration in some form would have been viable and that would
have had a positive impact. The US and its NATO allies could have
pressured the Northern Alliance to accept it, conditioning their
financial support on the establishment of an inclusive government - the
way they are doing now with the Taliban.
The Taliban could also have been consulted in the constitution-drafting
process. In fact, their representatives would not have stood out that
much in the Loya Jirga that passed the constitution since there were a
number of conservative figures and religious clerics, including Abdul
Rab Rasul Sayyaf, Burhanuddin Rabbani, and Skeikh Asif Mohsini in
attendance, who were also insisting on their conservative
interpretations of Islamic law.
In their defeat, the Taliban leaders may have been more likely to be
flexible on certain issues and more likely to engage in dialogue to
resolve disagreements. The whole inclusion process may have moderated
their religious views and politics and made their stance less
stringent. It may also have reflected on their supporters within the
Afghan population, which would not have felt as excluded and
marginalised by the new Afghan administration.
Some officials have already expressed regret for not making the Taliban
part of the political transition in Afghanistan. As Zalmay Khalilzad,
the US special envoy for Afghanistan, wrote in his book, The Envoy:
"The delegates represented Afghanistan's diversity, but the Taliban
were not present. In retrospect, some have suggested that we erred in
not encouraging the Taliban to participate in the Emergency Loya
Unfortunately, no serious efforts were made to reach out to the Taliban
until it was too late. Having made spectacular territorial gains in the
past five years, the Taliban negotiated from the position of strength,
not of weakness in the US-Taliban and intra-Afghan talks, and its
leadership was, therefore, much more uncompromising.
After returning triumphant to Kabul 20 years after being expelled by a
foreign force, the Taliban is now approaching other factions from the
position of power. One of the Taliban's main negotiators is Anas
Haqqani, a leader of the Haqqani Network, which is still on the US list
of terrorist groups. Haqqani is a hardline figure and is unlikely to
make compromises on the application of a conservative interpretation of
Apart from the hardliners in the leadership, who are pressing for
Islamic law, the group's rank and file, as well as supporters among the
civilian population, are also expecting a religiously conservative
regime to be established. Not doing so would risk alienating a lot of
these people, which is not something the Taliban leadership can afford
to do at the onset of its government in Afghanistan.
The only course of action left for the US and its Western allies is to
try to pressure the Taliban by withholding international recognition or
financial assistance. How successful that would be remains to be seen.
However, it is for now clear that women's and minority rights as well
as democratic principles will suffer a setback in Afghanistan.
Afghans have paid a heavy price for the miscalculations and failed
policies pursued by Kabul and Washington in the past two decades. This
is the sad outcome of the Taliban's exclusion from the post-2001
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not
necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.
* Hujjatullah Zia
Hujjatullah Zia is a journalist and senior writer in Daily Outlook
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