[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.
dan handelman
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
    and liberties.

    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
    on religion.

    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
    protested it.

    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
    Islamic law.

    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
        Afghanistan Newspaper

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