Blowback from negotiating with the Afghan Taliban

People seem to forget that President Hamid Karzai’s negotiations with the Afghan Taliban are alienating more than half the Afghan population and only serving to infuriate the ethnic Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazara who fought the Taliban under the banner of the Northern alliance. From The New York Times:

The dispute is breaking along lines nearly identical to those that formed during the final years of the Afghan civil war, which began after the withdrawal of the Soviet Union in 1989 and ended only with the American invasion following the Sept. 11 attacks. More than 100,000 Afghans died, mostly civilians; the Taliban, during their five-year reign in the capital, Kabul, carried out several large-scale massacres of Hazara civilians.

“Karzai is giving Afghanistan back to the Taliban, and he is opening up the old schisms,” said Rehman Oghly, an Uzbek member of Parliament and once a member of an anti-Taliban militia. “If he wants to bring in the Taliban, and they begin to use force, then we will go back to civil war and Afghanistan will be split.”

The deepening estrangement of Afghanistan’s non-Pashtun communities presents a paradox for the Americans and their NATO partners. American commanders have concluded that only a political settlement can end the war. But in helping Mr. Karzai to make a deal, they risk reigniting Afghanistan’s ethnic strife.

Talks between Mr. Karzai and the Pakistani leaders have been unfolding here and in Islamabad for several weeks, with some discussions involving bestowing legitimacy on Taliban insurgents.

The leaders of these minority communities say that President Karzai appears determined to hand Taliban leaders a share of power – and Pakistan a large degree of influence inside the country. The Americans, desperate to end their involvement here, are helping Mr. Karzai along and shunning the Afghan opposition, they say.

Mr. Oghly said he was disillusioned with the Americans and their NATO allies, who he says appear to be urging Mr. Karzai along. “We are losing faith in our foreign friends,” he said.

Amrullah Saleh, the former chief of the National Directorate of Security, resigned weeks ago in part because of President Karzai’s desire to share power with the Taliban. Here is what he had to say about negotiating with the Taliban. From Quqnoos:

I will mention a political program held by Lemar TV in which a Kochi lady from the northern Balkh province was talking. I agree with that lady’s comments, in which she said that President Karzai must not destroy the determination of the majority of Afghan people by pleading to a small group of terrorists. We must hold a Jirga that will respond to the will of 97 percent of Afghans. We must not hold a Jirga in which the will of 97 percent of Afghans will be dealt with for a small group. Karzai became president with the people’s votes. Why does the president force this nation to weaken its determination? Why doesn’t the president use force? This is the point of my disagreement with the president and I am not keeping it secret. There are hundreds of other reasons for my disagreements with the president, which I do not want to talk about now. The second main reason for my disagreement with the president is that he ordered the remission of the Taliban under a decree. I cannot forgive the murderers of the martyred Dr. Abdullah [Mr Saleh’s colleague], and I also cannot work in a government that forgives the Taliban.

And Saleh’s statement on negotiations with the likes of the Taliban speaks for itself:

I think this policy will not bring honourable peace. Showing a soft stance with a murderer who has killed more than a thousand does not seem like an honourable peace. Even I do not think that this soft stance results in peace. This soft behaviour makes the enemy’s intention even stronger and makes the confidence of friends shaky.

It is not only that I say this now, after stepping down, go to your archives and see.

I support peace and I’m not an element against peace, but gaining peace through soft behaviour and expressing humility has not brought about results in human history. Any nation that wants to achieve something must speak louder than a whimper.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Shah says:

    Was a similar concern expressed when the murderers of Pukhtuns, the northern alliance and other ethnic minorities were propped up by the US post 9/11 invasion?
    Afghanistan is a Pukhtun nation as even the word Afghan means Pukhtun. We cannot be ruled by Kabul persianized elites ever.
    Attempts to marginalize Pukhtuns have failed each and every time they have been tried in history. Let not arrogance make you believe they will succeed now.

  • Neo says:

    I doubt most Americans are aware of that Afghanistan is multiethnic, or that there where any previous differences before Americans came. The perception is that the entire country is hostile and impossible. There is also a strong segment of the news media that views our allies as either irrelevant, or corrupt and contemptible.


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