THE TALIBAN - THREAT OR MENACE TO THE PARTIES?
17. DESPITE THIS REPORTED EARLY APPROVAL FROM THE RABBANI GOVERNMENT, OFFICIAL SPOKESMEN FROM THE MAJOR PARTIES (INCLUDING BOTH HEKMATYAR SON-IN-LAW HUMAYUN JARIR AND JAMIAT'S MASOOD KHALILI) HAVE BEEN CAREFUL TO AVOID EITHER DIRECT CRITICISM OR PRAISE OF THE MOVEMENT IN BOTH THEIR PUBLIC STATEMENTS AND IN MEETINGS WITH EMBASSY AND CONSULATE OFFICERS. WHEN PRESSED FOR AN OFFICIAL POSITION, DR TALEEB OF HEZB-I-WAHDAT AND THE PESHAWAR RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE SUPREME COORDINATION COUNCIL (SCC) WOULD ONLY SAY -- OFFICIALLY -- THAT THE SCC HAD NO FORMAL POSITION, AND HAD DISPATCHED A DELEGATION LED BY DR HASMATULLAH MOJAHEDDI TO QUETTA TO ASSESS THE SITUATION.
18. INFLUENTIAL PLAYERS OUTSIDE THE PARTY STRUCTURE ARE ALSO RELUCTANT TO PUBLICLY CRITICIZE THE MOVEMENT, [redacted] NOTING THAT "IT IS TOO EARLY TO TELL WHETHER THEY ARE GOOD OR BAD" AND [redacted] CLOSE ASSOCIATE, [redacted] TELLING EMBASSY OFFICERS THAT THE TALIBAN ACTIONS HAVE "SO FAR BEEN FREE OF ANYTHING TO CRITICIZE." [redacted] HAS STATED BLUNTLY THAT HEKMATYAR, RABBANI, AND MASOOD ARE BEWILDERED EVEN THOUGH ONE OF THEM (WHICH ONE HE REFRAINED FROM IDENTIFYING) SUPPORTS THEM.
An intriguing comment.
19. PRIVATELY, HOWEVER, ACTIVISTS FROM OUTSIDE THE TALIBAN WILL EXPRESS THEIR FEARS. [redacted] HAS TOLD PESHAWAR PO AND ISLAMABAD POLOFF THAT THE TALIBAN ARE "QUITE DANGEROUS -- EVEN MORE DANGEROUS THAN THE PARTY LEADERS (SIC)." THE PARTY LEADERS, HE CLAIMS, CAN AT LEAST TALK TO EACH OTHER EITHER DIRECTLY OR THROUGH THEIR "EDUCATED SUPPORTERS." THE TALIBAN, HOWEVER, "ARE HALF-EDUCATED AND NAIVE." ABDUL HAQ, WHILE UNWILLING TO CHARACTERIZE THE MOVEMENT, ADMITS TO THE DANGERS IT POSES SAYING, "IF THIS GETS OUT OF HAND, ALL OF THE UN WORK COULD BE FOR NOTHING. IT LOOKS LIKE AFGHANISTAN WAS FIRST DESTROYED BY THE COMMUNISTS, THEN BY THE FUNDAMENTALISTS, AND NOW WE MIGHT BE DESTROYED BY THE MULLAHS."
A very prophetic comment.
20. EVEN SOME OF THE MOVEMENT'S APPARENT SUPPORTERS HAVE EXPRESSED UNEASE. [redacted] WHO IS APPARENTLY COOPERATING WITH THE TALIBAN IN HELMAND PROVINCE, HAS BEEN QUOTED BY JAMIAT SOURCES AS SAYING, "I'M A TALIB; BUT WE MUST SEE WHERE THE MOVEMENT IS GOING." KANDAHAR'S [redacted] WHO POST BELIEVES LOOKS UPON THE TALIBAN AS HIS VEHICLE FOR GETTING BACK ON THE NATIONAL STAGE, ADMITS "THAT THERE HAVE BEEN A FEW TOO MANY UNNECESSARY HANGINGS."
21. THE TALIBAN MOVEMENT HOLDS OUT HOPE FOR WAR-WEARY AFGHANS DISGUSTED WITH THE FAILURE OF NATIONAL-LEVEL LEADERS TO COMPROMISE AND THE FAILURE OF LOCAL COMMANDERS TO ESTABLISH LOCAL SECURITY. MOST AFGHANS PERCEIVE LOCAL COMMANDERS AS THE GREATEST THREATS TO RESIDENTS AND TRAVELERS ALIKE.
Yeah -- it's called anarchy.
But, long term, is anarchy in fact worse than an extremist, fascistic government, which, without having yet attained power, was already demonstrating itself -- by bribing instead of fighting local warlords -- to be corrupt into the deal?
PRESSURE ON THE PARTIES - COPY-CAT CRUSADERS?
22. THE TALIBAN'S APPARENT FREEDOM OF ACTION HAS FACTIONAL LEADERS CONCERNED THAT THEIR OWN MONOPOLY ON POWER AND THE POLITICAL PROCESS IS AT STAKE. HOWEVER, SEVERAL SOURCES -- INCLUDING THOSE FROM HIG, SCC, JAMIAT, THE UN'S ADVISORY COUNCIL, AND THE COUNCIL FOR UNDERSTANDING AND NATIONAL UNITY -- DOUBT THE STAYING POWER OF THE KANDAHARI TALIBAN. "THEY'RE TRAINED TO BE MULLAHS," SAID ONE SOURCE, "AND THEY DON'T UNDERSTAND LOGISTICS OR ADMINISTRATION. HOW FAR CAN THEY GO?"
Didn't they say the same thing about the communists and the Nazis -- pointing out the lack of qualifications of the movements' leaders, didn't people wonder how far the movements could go?
For that matter, assuming sincerity on the part of the Taliban, they likely intended to follow in the steps of Mohammed. How much training did the Prophet have in logistics or administration? Yet, that didn't seem to stop him.
23. HOWEVER, THERE IS CONCERN THAT THE MULLAH-LED TALIBAN, EVEN IF ULTIMATELY UNSUCCESSFUL, WILL ENCOURAGE A HOST OF COPY-CAT ORGANIZATIONS EAGER TO TAKE ON THE WARRING FACTIONS. ONE FIGURE FREQUENTLY MENTIONED AS ONE WHO COULD CARRY AN ARMED NON-PARTISAN CAMPAIGN FORWARD IS SAID AGHA, THE MAULAWI OF TERAKHEL. MAULAWI TERAKHEL, AS HE IS USUALLY KNOWN, IS A WELL-RESPECTED RELIGIOUS FIGURE WITH SOUND NON-PARTISAN MUJ CREDENTIALS (IT WAS HIS SUMMER 1979 ATTACK ON KABUL AIRPORT THAT PRECIPITATED THE EVACUATION OF AMERICAN DEPENDENTS FROM KABUL) AND A FOUNDING FATHER OF THE NON-PARTISAN COUNCIL OF UNDERSTANDING AND NATIONAL UNITY (SHURA-E TAFAHOUM WA WAHDAT-E MILLI). WITH ABDUL HAQ, GENERAL KATAWAZI, AND AMIN WARDAK AS COUNCIL MEMBERS, THE GROUP HAS LONG BEEN KNOWN FOR ITS YEARNING FOR A "THIRD FORCE."
24. IN A NOVEMBER 17 MEETING WITH PO, THE MAULAWI SAID THAT HE HAD BEEN OFFERED, AND REJECTED, LEADERSHIP OF THE KANDAHARI TALIBAN. "I DON'T KNOW ENOUGH ABOUT THEM," HE SAID, "OR WHO REALLY SUPPORTS THEM, OR HOW LONG THEY CAN KEEP GOING." "NONETHELESS," HE WENT ON, "I THINK THE PEOPLE THAT ARE USING THE TALIBAN ARE IN FOR A SURPRISE, AND THE TALIBAN HAVE A GOOD IDEA."
"I think the people who are using the Taliban are in for a surprise...."
25. [paragraph redacted in its entirety]
26. WHILE THIS CHALLENGE SOUNDS LIKE HYPERBOLE, IT AT LEAST ATTRACTED THE ATTENTION OF THE NEUTRAL NANGARHAR SHURA WHICH DISPATCHED (ACCORDING TO [redacted] AN ADDITIONAL 400 MEN TO TORKHAM BORDER TO GUARD AGAINST "DISTURBANCES." THE [redacted] DEEP-SEATED DISLIKE OF ABDUR-RASUL SAYYAF, WHOSE ITTEHAD FORCES MAN A POST AT TORKHAM, WAS PROBABLY NOT INCIDENTAL TO THE SHURA'S DECISION.
27. [redacted] DISMISSED EARLIER REPORTS THAT HEKMATYAR HAD DISPATCHED MEMBERS OF HIS YOUTH WING TO WORK WITH HIM. "I PRAY THE DAY WILL NEVER COME WHEN I NEED HELP FROM HEKMATYAR," THE [redacted] SAID, NOTING THAT HEKMATYAR HAD BEEN A VERY POOR THEOLOGY STUDENT DURING THE HIG LEADER'S PESHAWAR DAYS.
Hekmatyar turned out to be a thug and a terrorist, even by militant Islam's standards.
28. [redacted] NOTED THAT HE WAS VERY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT THE UN PEACE EFFORT, AND HOPED THAT THE KANDAHARI TALIBAN DID NOT ADVERSELY AFFECT THE PROCESS. THE GREATER DANGER TO THE UN PROCESS, HE SAID, WAS THE THREAT OF SABOTAGE BY THE OIC, SUDAN-BASED EXTREMISTS, OR PAKISTANI FUNDAMENTALISTS "WHO HAVE RUINED THINGS BEFORE. AS FOR ME, I HAVE ALL MY HOPES ON THE UN, AND CONTINUE TO PUT MYSELF AT MESTIRI'S DISPOSAL."
An interesting remark, that the threat was from "Sudan-based extremists, or Pakistani fundamentalists". Indeed, who is Al Qaeda, if not "Sudan-based extremists"? And was Al Qaeda not linked to the same people who were helping make Pakistani groups more fundamentalist? And, were Pakistani religious groups not suspected of involvement from the very beginning?
In a coming post -- not one of this series, though -- we will take another look at the "Undercurrents and Eddies" of Pakistani politics, with a focus on this very issue.
29. JUST AS THERE ARE CONFLICTING REPORTS ON THE SPONSORS OF THE TALIBAN, THERE IS WILDLY CONFLICTING SPECULATION ON EXACTLY WHO WILL BENEFIT FROM THEIR ACTIONS. [redacted] EXPLICITLY NOTED THAT THE TALIBAN WILL "PERHAPS" BE USEFUL IN BRINGING THE PARTY LEADERS, PARTICULARLY HEKMATYAR, KHALIS, RABBANI, AND SAYAAF, TOGETHER TO FACE A COMMON THREAT. [redacted] A THIRD FORCE ADVOCATE AND SUPPORTER OF THE UN PROCESS, SAYS THE CHALLENGE WILL BE TO "GET THEM ON OUR SIDE." OTHER OBSERVERS FEEL THAT THE LOCAL SUCCESS AT BREAKING THE MAJOR PARTIES' MONOPOLIES WILL GIVE RENEWED HEART TO THE NON-PARTISAN TRADITIONALISTS/ROYALISTS OF KANDAHAR, OR THE PERENNIALLY MENTIONED COMPROMISE CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT AND TRADITIONALIST HARAKAT LEADER NABI MOHAMMADI, OR EVEN THE LARGELY MARGINALIZED HAMID KARZAI.
Hamid Karzai -- but, of course, he ultimately did benefit from all of this, now didn't he? But, it took 9/11 and a US invasion of his country for that to develop....
[The last paragraph appears to be misnumbered -- it should be "30" but is numbered "26". YD]
26. THE TALIBAN'S ORIGINS AND FUTURE REMAIN AN ENIGMA, WITH EVEN THE MOST WELL-INFORMED SPECULATION CONFRONTED WITH PARADOXES. IT DOES APPEAR, HOWEVER, THAT THE TALIBAN ARE CERTAINLY NOT ACTING TO THE EXCLUSIVE BENEFIT OF ANY OF THE ESTABLISHED VESTED INTERESTS, AND EVEN THOSE THAT HAVE LONGED FOR A "THIRD FORCE" SEEM SURPRISED AT WHAT HAS DEVELOPED. THE STRONG SUPPORT THE TALIBAN HAVE RECEIVED THUS FAR FROM THE AFGHAN PEOPLE REFLECTS THE DEGREE OF POPULAR FRUSTRATION WITH THE PARTY LEADERS AND A STRONG DESIRE FOR PEACE AND STABILITY. END COMMENT.