has a foreign military presence that represents an existential threat to the
Taliban — an organization that purports to guard the country against all
foreign influence. That threat is not the American-led NATO coalition. The
Islamic State (ISIS) is a transnational organization with the objective of
making Afghanistan one more province (their word is emirate) in a worldwide
imperial vision has the same plan to subordinate Afghanistan to its imperial
aspirations as did Alexander, Genghis Khan, the British Empire and the old
Soviet Union. That part of the Taliban which is currently negotiating with the
United States for an eventual U.S.-NATO withdrawal fails to officially
recognize that the real foreign force that is threatening to take over the
country remains virtually ignored in the talks. That elephant in the room
should become a key part of any final agreement.
leadership isn’t stupid, but it is badly mistaken if it thinks that — absent
U.S.-NATO presence — it will be free to march into Kabul as it did in 1996.
ISIS aside, the political landscape has undergone a tectonic shift. The Kabul
government may suffer from corruption and rampant inefficiency, but it
represents the majority of Afghans who, though they may consider themselves to
be good Muslims, see a secularized form of governance as the way of the future.
The Taliban now represent a distinct minority of citizens who prefer to live in
the 14th century; but absent the Americans, they will face an internal enemy
determined to march smartly back to the Islam of the 8th century.
leaders undoubtedly also realize that they lead a fragile coalition that has as
its unifying theme the ejection of the U.S.-NATO coalition and the spoils that
would be gained by control of Kabul. Under the shaky Taliban umbrella, there is
a devil’s mix of conflicting interests. The criminal cartel called the Haqqani
Network is a “for profit” enterprise that will view any peace as bad for
business. The same holds true for the loose coalition of drug lords and
roadside bomb (IED) makers in the northwest area of the country that I am most
familiar with. Wrapping themselves in the Taliban cloak gives a veneer of
legitimacy to some very un-Islamic activities. Then, there are the true
believers in unending holy war. As soon as the ink is dry on any peace
agreement, these eternal jihadists will make common cause with ISIS and wage
civil war against the Taliban central leaders considered to be apostates.
the Taliban leadership is their utter failure to effectively govern in the
areas that they currently control. Although they portray themselves as pure
students of Islam, once their relatively uneducated local leaders gain control,
they soon find a truism that all Muslim leaders exercising governance have
discovered over the centuries. In the words of John Lehman: “Power corrupts,
and absolute power is really neat.” In other words, local Taliban leaders will
become the power structure that the young Turks led by ISIS will be out to
destroy. The Taliban will find itself tarred with the same brush of corruption
as the Kabul government. To date, the Taliban has been able to blame the
baleful influence of the U.S.-NATO war machine for their failure to govern
effectively. Without the Americans to kick around anymore, the Taliban
leadership will find itself short on excuses.
government should take no solace from the Taliban’s problems. The Islamic State
and the Taliban may be fighting over territory that the central government
cannot control, but Kabul is the ultimate goal of both insurgent groups. In
fact, as soon as the Taliban central leadership begins direct talks with the
central government, both groups will become targets of all of those factions
that profit from ongoing conflict.
Americans might conclude that all of this will be an Afghan problem if — and
when — a peace agreement is reached. Not so. Gen. David Petraeus recently
pointed out, the reason that we originally entered Afghanistan was to rid it of
another international terrorist organization — al Qaeda; he advocates keeping a
small, powerful counter-terrorist force in Afghanistan as a hedge against
further ISIS inroads.
If it isn’t
happening already, a major goal of the current peace talks should be convincing
the Taliban negotiators that a counterterror residual NATO presence is in its
self-interest. It may also eventually become necessary to convince President
Trump of the same thing, but that is another set of issues. Afghanistan is a
gift that keeps on giving.
Anderson lectures in Alternative Analysis at the George Washington University’s
Elliott School of International Affairs. He served as a civilian adviser in
Iraq and Afghanistan.
Headline: The Taliban's dilemma
Source: The Washington Times