But, didn’t America beat the Taliban?

Posted on February 17, 2009. Filed under: Public Square | Tags: , , , , |

You may not know this, but Pakistan created the Taliban. Or at least, people in Pakistan (the ISI and the army), gave them enough money that they could exist and come to power in Afghanistan. Cold War-era CIA didn’t help either, pouring plenty of money into the hands of the mujahideen to fight Russia, money and arms that have now turned against the very hand that ‘giveth.’

The invasion of Afghanistan was able to push the Taliban out of the large cities, but they’re still alive, kicking and denying education for women in the villages and the hills. In addition, and you may not know this either, they’re doing even better in the land of their creation.

They’re doing so well, that they can dictate terms to the government, as the New York Times reports,

Pakistan government officials said they struck a deal on Monday to accept a legal system compatible with Shariah law in the violent Swat region in return for peace.

The agreement contradicted American demands for the Pakistan authorities to fight harder against militants, and seemed certain to raise fears in Washington that a perilous precedent had been set across a volatile region where U.S. forces are fighting Taliban militants operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is not the same as working with the tribes in Anbar province in Iraq, this is working with the enemy! It’s the UK and France appeasing Hitler in order to save themselves. (I know, I just invoked Godwin’s Law.)

The authorities agreed to a legal system rejecting any law that did not comply with the teachings of the Koran and the sayings and teachings of the prophet Muhammad, known as the Sunnah.

Since last summer, some 12,000 government troops have been fighting a military operation in Swat against a Taliban force of about 3,000 fighters. The militants have kept a stranglehold on the area for months, killing local police officers and officials, and punishing residents who do not adhere to strict Islamic tenets.

Shariah, Islamic law, itself is a slippery slope, there are different interpretations and radical possibilities. It would be like applying Old Testament law and punishment today, something that would, if carried out to the letter, be primitive, barbaric and quite possibly, just wrong.

The authorities, for their part, promised to introduce the new legal system once peace had been restored, government officials said.

The Taliban made several gestures on Sunday that appeared to be aimed at moving the deal along, including declaring a 10-day cease-fire with government troops in Swat. A militant spokesman there, Muslim Khan, said the move was made out of good will and told reporters that “our fighters will neither target security forces nor government installations.” But he insisted that the militants would fight back if attacked.

What with this, and AQ Khan (the man who is suspected of having proliferated nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya) being freed, Pakistan does not seem like the best place to be right now. Even so the new, somewhat democratic government is attempting to wrest control from the army and the ISI, without losing its votebanks, and hopefully some progress can be made towards improving the situation.

Hillary Clinton (and Pranab Mukherjee, India’s FM and Rangin Spanta, Afghanistan’s FM) will have to start using some of that ‘smart power’ (mixing diplomacy and military) and win both the battle on the ground and battle of the minds of the people of Pakistan, if they want to really change the power dynamic in the region.

UPDATE: More analysis from the LAT,

Human rights groups expressed concern about the new pact Monday, saying it opened the door to even more violence and intimidation by militants in an area that is home to nearly 2 million people.

“The truce could legitimize the human rights abuses that have been taking place in the region as Taliban influence has increased,” Amnesty International said in a statement.

The fighting in Swat has been seen as a barometer of the Pakistani government’s determination to confront Islamic militants, because the area lies far from the Afghan border and is not part of the semiautonomous tribal belt, where militants have a well-established foothold.

Instead, it is part of Pakistan’s “settled areas,” where government authority is supposed to prevail.

Pakistan’s central government sought to characterize the imposing of Sharia as a way to ease public anger over corrupt and inefficient local courts. It remains unclear, however, whether the new courts will adopt some of the practices seen in the tribal areas, where traditional punishments such as cutting off thieves’ hands are routinely meted out.


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