Looking For The Moderate Taliban

Ever since Obama admitted the US was not winning in Afghanistan and broached the possibility of reaching out to the “moderate” Taliban, there has been a flurry of responses weighing in his odds on both sides. Obama bases his approach on the apparent success of peeling away the moderates from the extremists in Iraq. I say apparent because his assumption ignores the ethnic cleansing of Shias which led to “peace” in the much touted Anbar province [where the surge “worked”] as well as the accelerated ethnic cleansing of Sunnis which took place in Baghdad. In the words of Tom Ricks, military reporter: “And yes, another reason Baghdad is quieter is that ethnic cleansing has been completed in much of the city.”

Then there was the fake sheik who represented the “moderate” elements and the duplicity of the preceding administration, which was talking to dead people while fighting fictitious enemies. Nevertheless, the novel notion of a dialogue to achieve resolution cannot be underscored enough. The UN Envoy to Afghanistan is open to the idea but recommends talking to all the Taliban as it is his opinion that a fragmented approach will fail. This validates Rory Stewarts articulate presentation of the reasons why the Iraq approach is doomed to fail in Afghanistan: “The Taleban… do not have mass movements behind them. When we talk about driving the Taleban to the table, we forget that these groups are more insubstantial and fragmented than we acknowledge. The Kabul Government lacks political depth or legitimacy; the Taleban is elusive…”

Afghan opposition leaders, analysts and writers have also expressed their skepticism, maintaining that as long as Karzai’s government appears weak and ineffective, such approaches would lead nowhere

“I don’t know of a single peace process that has been successfully negotiated from a position of weakness or stalemate.”-Ashraf Ghani, former finance minister

“Obama’s comment resemble a dream more than reality,” said Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst who has written a book on the Taliban.

“Where are the so-called moderate Taliban? Who are the moderate Taliban?” asked Mozhdah, who was an official in both the Taliban and the Karzai governments.

Gen. David Petraeus, inflated by his “success” in Iraq would nevertheless like to apply the same strategy in Afghanistan and “has been a strong supporter of the strategy of trying to divide the Afghan insurgency by offering money and jobs to those willing to accept the government in Kabul. He has said that his strategy of outreach to what he has described as “reconcilables” among the insurgents in Iraq might be applicable in Afghanistan as well.”

While the US administration muddles around the possible outcome of adding more arms to the turmoil, the Afghan government, alongwith Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is already holding talks with the Taliban. Ironically, Taliban officials blame the US government and NATO for impeding these talks and inhibiting resolution between the Taliban and Afghan government.

A former top Taliban official says Afghans blame NATO and the U.S., not Taliban insurgents, for the mounting civilian deaths. And, says, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the international forces should step aside to let the Kabul government and Afghan military negotiate a settlement to the war with the Taliban. Mullah Zaeef, who became the public face of the Taliban regime as it collapsed in late 2001, says the Afghan government wants to reach a peaceful solution to the ongoing fighting with the Taliban and other insurgents, but is not being allowed to do so as NATO and the U.S. are firmly in control of military operations. “They have no power, they have no independence to negotiate,” said the mullah, a former confidant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. “The foreigners should let the people of Afghanistan decide. If they want to talk to the Taliban, the foreigners should not interfere.” Mullah Zaeef spent almost four years in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay after being arrested in Pakistan in January 2002. He was released at the request of the Afghan government, which is trying to work with “good Taliban” as part of a reconciliation program.

In all this hoopla, the real victims of the war continue to suffer and joke about their helplessness in the face of the events over which they have little or no control.

“Knock, knock.”

“Who is there?”

“It’s U.S. Special Forces.”

“What do you want?”

“We are looking for Mr. Moderate Taliban to talk to our leader, Mullah Obama.”

“There is no one here but us, the real Taliban; we are bearded, armed, and we don’t allow our girls to go to school or go outside.”

“It’s ok, he still wants to talk to you if you only oppress your own women and don’t attack us.”

So whats the solution? Is there a way out of this cesspool? Shazia Rafi offers a way to locate the “moderate” Taliban. Here criteria? Treatment of women. Based on the premise that the quality of a country is determined by the way it treats its women, she has offered a list of recommendations by which the Obama government can successfully locate moderates to deal with.

  • Any leader whose own daughters are being educated without restriction on grade level or subjects: a moderate;
  • Any leader whose mother, sisters, wife are educated without restriction on grade level or subjects: a moderate;
  • Any leader who is willing to take the women and girls of his family to a male physician if he is the doctor on duty at the hospital/clinic: a moderate;
  • Any leader whose female family members have paid employment or are self-employed: a moderate;
  • Any leader who has killed or advocated killing of individuals or groups that disagree with his viewpoint: not eligible for moderate status.

And if you think thats not important, take a gander at what RAWA has to say here and here, or the following video

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I'm an explorer in science, philosophy and religion, defining the boundaries where one stops and the other begins. An admirer of reason, compassion, humour and integrity, my travels have been fruitful and rewarding, shaping my outlook and perspective.

40 thoughts on “Looking For The Moderate Taliban”

  1. There is nothing such as the moderate Taliban. They are barbarians, plain and simple. The only thing that can be done against them is to inflict a severe military defeat upon them.

    The sooner this step is taken, the better it will be for peace in the region.

    We have to establish in the region a nil tolerance for militancy, extremism and terrorism.

  2. Taliban is not a physical enemy. Its a state of mind resulting from misgovernance, lack of opportunity and non-existent development. India could come into the grips of the Hindu taliban if the Indian system does not perform.

  3. Apparently, most of the Taliban are leftovers of the Afghan-Russian war. Mullah Omar for instance was a mujahideen leader, as was Gulbuddin Hekmateyar.

  4. Milind#
    There are no Talibans, moderate or otherwise. All Afghan sport beard and wear the Pathan dress which can be conveniently shown as Taliban and this disfigured Afghan is Taliban. The disturbing fact that Mr Kazai, the handpicked President is himself being told that his utility is no longer there. Any self respecting people will take to arms if they are imposed with a leader and whose writ does not run in things like military ops. I think the non-western people are readily availble to be fooled and we start classifying the same people hardliner or moderates. Is there anybody who would apply same yarstick to the communists of USSR or George Bush or Obama. They all are extremists to the core, so much so that we cannot apply the standards of moderates or extremists. This tendency is allowing the neo-colonist agendas of these former coloniser. Had we called them occupiers and spreador of faith by military conquest, they would have not got the moral high they are accorded readily by us. The Afghan have been living for 100 years the way they live now. By this logic those who fought the British till 1920 must have been terrorists.
    A standard is under implementation like one listed by Shama for knowing a moderate, which lists production of illegitimate children by womenfolk to qualify your society to be modern. America is one and I remmeber my childhood where in a Urdu magazine, one sabaq said “mustaqbil ke maghrib mein shadiyaan naheen hongi”. We neither consider to be dignity of human being especially the women nor stoop to this animalistic way of life.

  5. Naqqaad

    I’m not sure but why in your opinion is having a child outside wedlock such a bad thing? Its an exercise of free will and if the parent can take care of the child I see nothing wrong. No honest living being can be illegitimate. IMHO having tons of children and not taking care of them – leading them to become criminals – is a far bigger crime. Many people of our subcontinent are guilty of breeding like rats and treating their kids like that. Then when these kids grow up, having had no access to education and modern sense of life, they naturally get left out and for this they start blaming the society.

    US attacked Afghanistan because they sheltered Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida. Taliban also sheltered the hijackers of the Indian Airlines flight. India does not have the balls to stand up for itself but US does. Before that US also “rescued” Afghanistan from the USSR. It’s the blame of some Afghanis that they did not work out their country and decided to spread their version of hate elsewhere.

    If you want to know about the west, please learn about it without any prejudices and may be even travel there.

  6. M Naqqad,

    The “Taliban” is a shadow organization. This term is used to designate a bunch of nihilists.

    In Pakistan, where the so called Taliban operate in NWFP, the view about them is that they are nihilists, people without values or purpose, who are funded by western powers.

    These are mercenaries without a religion. Let us hope that the Pakistani Army is able to defeat them. Tomorrow, they could prove to be a threat to India.

  7. Moderate taliaban is an oximoron. It does not exist. Obama yesterday has given 17000 more troops for afghan. Further has assured to give 1.5 billion usd p.a. 7500 crore per annum as aid to pakistan.

    In a way american deserve this as they created the taliban by arming them to the tooth to destory russian which is working against them.

    American ego is not allowing them to just ignore afghan and put all ban on international relationship like that of libya. After 20 years, libya is the closest ally to usa. Economic isolation is more deadly than muscle power.

  8. Milind
    This is a bit bizarre. Do you mean to say that the major view in Pakistan is that the US all along has been using the Taliban to create 9/11 and then the US decided to attack Taliban. So at the same time the US is both fighting as well as funding their enemy. Its even more bizarre than arguing the the BJP staged 11/26.
    Pakistan army uses Taliban to create its own bizarre strategic game, with this vain hope that sometime in future it can take its fight to India. It has no interest in defeating the Taliban. India has to be strong enough to defend itself but unfortunately the BJP cannot get its act together to be a nationalist party and Congress continues its hope with the wrong elements of the minority community.

  9. M Naqqaad
    “mustaqbil ke maghrib mein shadiyaan naheen hongi”

    *“aur mustaqbil ke fajr mein Shor-e-pand-e-naseh bhi nahin honge”

  10. As Salamu Aliekum…

    This is an interview given by Imran Khan to CNN on the Show GPS, hosted by Fareed Zakaria.


    Good post Sister Shama. I really don’t know is there any Moderate Taliban or not because I don’t know the ground realities, what i know is, what i watch on News Channels and Newspapers and Internet Videos, but what i know is peace can be brought back to Afghan and Pakistan, only through dialogue with what ever kind of Taliban exists, however it is true and rightly said by one of the Afghan official “resemble a dream more than reality” but we can sometimes make our dreams come true, At least this dream, Insha Allah..

    All those who think, Dialogue is not possible or peace can’t come back, then remember Mahatma Gandhi talking to Britishers even after all the violence, peace and prosperity did came to our Country India and my Muslims Brother and Sister, try go back to Islamic History, even Prophet Mohammed(PBUH) had as peace deal with the Mushrik of Maaka… Dialogue is the only way to achieve peace in that region, both the above situation are different but we can be optimistic and look forward…

    Oh, Allah(swt) please open the door of peace, prosperity, growth and happyness in the World…Aameen…


  11. @Milind

    I wonder who views the Taliban as funded by the Western powers or as those being without values or purpose.Or even that they are mercenaries without a religion.

    They cannot be clearer in their declaration of what motivates them. It’s their version of “Islam” which they have been indoctrinated with and which they are now seeking to enforce on the hapless population.Its their understanding of “jihad” and establishment of “Shariah” that they are fighting for and willing to die for.To deny this and say they are without religion,values and purpose is being plain ignorant or dishonest.Obviously their vile interpretation of Islam is unacceptable to the vast majority of Muslims who have already rejected them.

    And only the pathologically deluded conspiracy theorist will claim that they are funded by the Western powers.Even entertaining such a ludicrous suggestion when there are daily battles and blood being spilled is highly irresponsible to say the least.

    Those who say “Taliban” do not exist or “Al Qaeda” does not exist are obviously playing a disingenuous game.The enemy is not one organization whether AlQaeda or Taliban or whatever as they have all splintered into innumerable cells all believing in Islamism-a violent political ideology masquerading as and defaming the faith of Islam.It is the Islamists who are the threat to India as well.And you will have their supporters quickly denying any such thing exists and denying that there are moderates or extremists so that they can mingle with ordinary Muslims and use them as shield.Because of their terrorist activities the poor ordinary Muslim has suffered innumerable indignities, discrimination and police brutality.

    The Pakistan army or the ISI has long played a double game and only some serious arm twisting by the Americans will cause them to go after the extremists in earnest.

    I know the above post doesn’t reflect your views but its time to call a spade a spade.

  12. @Sudie,

    Everybody knows that there was a time when the Western powers propped up the “Mujahideen” to fight againsts the Russians. These Mujahideen have given rise to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They have become a Frankenstein’s monster.

    @Ahsan Khan,

    Please interact with the Pakistanis. THEY are the ones who will tell you that the “Taliban” are nihilists.

    Those who treat women the way these people do, those who blow up shrines, and kill people while they worship in mosques cannot be called Muslims. This is why I said they have no religion.

    It is precisely when we acknowledge such people as Muslims that millions of other people start pointing accusing fingers at Muslims.

  13. Having interacted with Pakistani students both as a roommate and at University, i can say that a good percentage of Pakistanis have soft corner for Taliban and were ticked off when US attacked Taliban after 9/11. In fact some praised them during Indian Plane hijack incident! They thought that Afghanistan is a true muslim country …or trying to be BUT we all know how true Taliban is in terms of religion!! without going to any details I can say that one should watch OSAMA, a touching movie by an afghan!
    There is a good support from Pakistan’s Army in Taliban’s cause as well and they are paying the price for it. Thinking that a majority of Pakistan doesn’t support Taliban is not true! News coming from Pakistan in this regard is alarming!!

  14. @Milind

    I do interact with Pakistanis across all sections of society.There is frightening support for the extremists in some quarters and ofcourse the bomb blasts are blamed on “kafirs” or “India/RAW” as Muslims can never do such a thing as blow up mosques/markets/schools/even funeral processions.They are in denial and deluding themselves.

    I know we Muslims like all decent human beings are horrified by the carnage and death and destruction being inflicted in our names and try and we distance ourselves from their actions by saying “They cannot be Muslims” and “This is unIslamic”.But how can you treat a disease unless you accept the diagnosis.Are you saying these terrorist acts are NOT done by the Taliban or that they are not Muslims?Ineffect you are declaring them as out of the fold of Islam.
    There are any number of declarations of kufr and takfeer by the ulema but have you heard any against what the Taliban is doing?

    They say they are Muslims and are doing this in the path of “jihad” and for establishment of an “Islamic state”.All their violent interpretation ofcourse. But that’s a reality that you have to deal with.

    This is a struggle for the sould of Islam and the violent extremists will be defeated InshAllah.What they are doing is fitna and fasad and not jihad and they should be called fasadis and not jihadis.They need to be fought ideologically,politically,militarily,in civil society and the battlefield until they are defeated.

  15. @Milind
    You wrote
    “It is precisely when we acknowledge such people as Muslims that millions of other people start pointing accusing fingers at Muslims.”
    So the way you deal with it is by flatly denying that they are Muslims?

    There are good and bad people in every religion.There are good Muslims whom the world loves (APJ Abdul Kalam/AR Rahman to name only two) and bad Muslims like the Taliban/extremists who are universally reviled.

    Just like there are good people amongst Hindus and evil ones like Babu Bajrangi and his ilk or good Americans and bad Americans and this applies to every community,country and religion.I don’t see what the problem is.

    Anyone who points fingers at Muslims must realise they cannot blame an entire community for the actions of a few.Because the actions of the terrorists are so vile and target innocents, Muslim terrorists are in the current media limelight.Once the terrorists are defeated and the attacks stop this phase will also pass. I remember how the Sikhs were viewed in the 80s and how things have changed since.

    My approach is not to deny what is obvious but face the facts and fight the extremists head on.Where do you stand?

  16. @Ahsan Khan,

    I will recount to you a very simple hadith of the Holy Prophet (SAWA), the paraphrase of which runs thus, “By God, he cannot be a Muslim (repeated 3 times), from whose hand and tongue his neighbors are unsafe.

    So, these terrorists may have Muslim sounding names, but on the basis of ahadith like the one above, would you call them Muslims?

    I do believe that the Ulema in their numerous fatwas have declared that people performing such acts are not Muslims.

  17. Moderates in taliban is an oxi-moron. It does not exist. Activities in the last few months in pakistan and swat are the evidence for the same.

    It is beyond redemption leading to internal dis-integration on the basis of tribes.

  18. @Milind

    Look I understand where you are coming from because I felt the same for many years.But that is just running away from reality. For instance I will quote to you another Hadith

    Narrated by ‘Sufwaa bin Saleem’
    ‘The Prophet (pbuh) was asked: “Can a believer be a coward?”
    He said “Yes.”
    He was asked again: “Can a believer be a miser?”
    He said “Yes.”
    He was asked again: “Can a believer be a liar?”
    The Prophet (pbuh) replied: “No.”‘
    (Bukhaari o Muslim)

    How many Muslims do you think are there on this earth, Milind?

  19. Ahsan Khan

    “only some serious arm twisting by the Americans will cause them to go after the extremists in earnest.”

    –Its naïve on the part of the people of the sub-continent to believe that the western powers are concerned for the stability of our part of the world, they have their own agenda & strategic interests which need not be compatible with our interests & feasible to our peaceful existence, The Pakistani oligarchy who are responsible for this mess, are protégé of the west, with almost all the high-ranking officers, politicians & feudal lords holding dual citizenship with their monies stacked in western banks & each one owning palatial houses over there.
    If their motives were to be served by the very lot they claim to fight, the Americans wouldn’t bait an eyelid to do a volte-face. “Looking For The Moderate Taliban” is one such stark reality, just preparation of some ground-work for an exit strategy in case the need arises.

    “They need to be fought ideologically,politically,militarily,in civil society and the battlefield until they are defeated.”
    — All that’s required is awareness & a genuine approach of- no sympathizers & identification from co-religionists to their brand of ideology, & they’ll perish for want of this much required oxygen. Punjab militancy is an apt example & a worthy case study.

  20. ofcourse west takes care of it’s own interests, it is no charity organization. Looking for moderate Taliban, most probably has to do with dividing taliban, one of the strategies used while fighting insurgencies. Now that there are pakistani taliban too and as their goals could be somewhat at variance from afghan and alqueda. West could be trying to take advantage of it in the name of moderate taliban. This will not work until unless pakistani army is forced to fight in an effective manner. Afterall all deals failed, neither taliban followed those agreements nor did it divide them and make them fight each other. It was easy in Iraq due to the history of saddam’s atrocities. Many from Swat do complain about taliban, may be west can arm them. may be Iran can arm shias. Once such efforts begin, may be pakistan army will see why it should fight taliban. The approch should ofcourse be multi – pronged. people won’t desert them until unless pakistani gov provides better options. That doesn’t seem possible in near future. India can help them in that regard if pakistan can put kashmir on back-burner. Any way it is a good idea for all to work together.

    accept facts that there are mosques/madrasas that work with taliban in pakistan. You say they are not muslim, they say only they are muslim. Just waste of energy. Neither is taken seriously by others.

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