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Pakistan President Seeks Mainstream Taliban

By Jeffrey Imm

August 13, 2007

Nearly a year after agreeing to a peace truce with the Pakistan Taliban in Waziristan, Pakistan's President Musharraf is now calling for the political mainstreaming of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Musharraf's views were reported in the August 13, 2007 Pakistan Daily Times article "Musharraf says not all Taliban terrorists", and by the Associated Press "Pakistan, Afghanistan mired in extremism, Pakistan president says".

In the concluding August 12, 2007 session of the Afghan-Pakistan peace jirga meeting, Pakistan President Musharraf argued that there is a place for a mainstream Taliban in Afghanistan, as the "Taliban are a part of Afghan society".

Pakistan President Musharraf was quoted at this jirga arguing for acceptance of Taliban within Afghan society as long as such Taliban are not "diehard militant":

"We must understand the environment. Taliban are a part of Afghan society. Most of them may be ignorant and misguided, but all of them are not diehard militants and fanatics who even defy the most fundamental values of our culture and our faith Islam." He said that military action was necessary against Al Qaeda militants and Taliban diehards who refused to reconcile, but a more comprehensive political and development approach was needed to defeat extremism and 'Talibanization'. "Talibanization and extremism ... represent a state of mind and require a more comprehensive long-term strategy where military action must be combined with a political approach and socio-economic development". More importantly, he said, the population that appears to be sympathetic to the Taliban is not militant. "Our approach must be focused on isolating those diehard militants who reject reconciliation and peace. Here, it is a question of winning hearts and minds," he said.

What's next? Calls for a politically mainstreamed Al-Qaeda?

This illustrates how imperative it is for America to remember why they are at war and with whom.

Pakistan and the Goal of the AUMF

Musharraf's speech on the need for recognizing the Taliban as a part of Afghan society, reminiscent of a 1938 Neville Chamberlain "peace for our time" declaration, should raise questions to Americans as to the role of Pakistan in fulfilling the obligations and the intent of the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

It was proven nearly 6 years ago that the Taliban Jihadists certainly were within the categories raised by the AUMF, "planned, authorized, committed, or aided" the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, there are 171 clustered references to the Taliban in the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission. U.S. has viewed the Taliban as an enemy as defined by the AUMF, despite the AUMF not stating the word "Taliban", as it also does not use the words "Jihad" or "Jihadist".

But $10 billion and 6 years later, we now have the President of Pakistan viewing this "enemy" of the U.S., the Taliban, not only has been worthy of truces, but also worthy of being a mainstream part of Afghanistan itself.

This is why it is so imperative to be clear that the U.S. is at war and to clearly identify the enemy.

Pakistan President Musharraf is redefining the U.S. enemy in Afghanistan, by stating that America is only fighting "terrorists" not the "Taliban" per se. This allows Musharraf to justify last September's peace negotiations and now is allowing Musharraf to offer a path of respectability to the Taliban.

Defeating Jihad by Providing Taliban Supporters with Political Respectability and Financial Aid?

What is the next step after America's tolerance of the September 5, 2006 Waziristan Accord, and yesterday's calls by President Musharraf for a mainstreamed Taliban? American acceptance of the Taliban as a political ideology? Or is the Taliban the enemy, based on the Taliban's role in the 9/11 attacks and enemy status of such groups as defined by the AUMF?

Much of the challenge comes back to war strategy and definition of the enemy. Who is America fighting and why? On July 15, 2007, the New York Times reported that "United States plans to pour $750 million in aid into Pakistan's tribal areas over the next five years as part of a 'hearts and minds' campaign to win over the lawless region from Al Qaeda and Taliban militants." What hearts and minds, specifically? Pro-Taliban? Because, as President Musharraf claims, that the "Taliban are a part of Afghan society"?

Part of the ambiguity is also derived from the unwillingness to address why the Taliban and Al-Qaeda worked together to attack the United States on 9/11. The issue of ideological and religious beliefs continues to be dodged as the rationale, with the frequently disproven rationale of poverty and lack of education as the source of Jihadism being forwarded, to be solved by "development aid" (per U.S. AID's objectives in Pakistan) and financial opportunities that will change the belief of Taliban members. (Should these analysts had been around in 1945, U.S. may have been dropping development aid rather than bombs on Nazi Germany.)

To Effectively Address Pakistan, America Must Define The Enemy

Tiptoeing around the enemy's identification has enabled Pakistan to ride the fence on the "War on Terror", and fail to make the difficult choices that Pakistan needs to make if it is to become a trusted ally in fighting Jihadism.

The Pakistan government has a long history of support for the Taliban, whose political Islamist philosophies provide a basis for Jihadist action. In addition to its many references on the Taliban, the 9/11 Commission Report also stated: "On terrorism, Pakistan helped nurture the Taliban. The Pakistani army and intelligence services, especially below the top ranks, have long been ambivalent about confronting Islamist extremists. Many in the government have sympathized with or provided support to the extremists. Musharraf agreed that Bin Ladin was bad. But before 9/11, preserving good relations with the Taliban took precedence." [See Paragraph #1811 on page 367 (page 368 printed copy) in the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission, the Commission]

Pakistan was basically dragged into an alliance with the U.S. against Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks, and has remained part of an alliance where U.S. pays Pakistan to control to fight the enemy Taliban at the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

However, Pakistan has taken an increasingly conciliatory role towards the Taliban, and has been willing to negotiate with the Taliban. With the monofocus of debate on the war in Iraq, insufficient public debate has been held over the strategy for ending the Taliban threat in Afghanistan, and the American war strategy in dealing with the Pakistan/Afghanistan issues of the Taliban.

The September 6, 2006 Waziristan Accord received little news coverage and comment, with the exceptions being notable articles by Tony Blankley "A battle lost in the war on terror", and by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Bill Roggio "Pakistan Surrenders -- The Taliban control the border with Afghanistan".

Last September, the Daily Telegraph reported that Taliban commander Mullah Omar "signed a letter explicitly endorsing the truce announced this month. In return for an end to the US-backed government campaign in Waziristan, the tribal leaders - who have harbored Taliban and al-Qaeda units for more than five years - agreed to halt attacks on Pakistani troops".

In the past week, Afghanistan and Pakistan has had another peace jirga of 600 Pakistani and Afghan tribal elders, which is where Musharraf gave his August 12 speech that the concluding August 12, 2007 session of the Afghan-Pakistan peace jirga meeting"Taliban are a part of Afghan society".

Prior to this jirga, Pakistani "Ruling coalition legislator and parliamentary Secretary for Defence Major (retd) Syed Tanveer Hussain has advised the Pakistan government to recognize the Taliban". In addition, prior to this jirga, the FATA Grand Alliance "urged the [Pakistan] federal government to accommodate new Taliban proposals if it wants to keep the North Waziristan truce intact", and that "Pakistan must avoid further deployment of troops in Waziristan and accommodate new proposals from the opposite side to reach an accord and avoid further destruction".

Pakistan is clearly being pressured by Islamist forces to accommodate the Taliban ideology.
Moreover, Pakistan has a historical record prior to 9/11 of supporting such Taliban ideologies.

Question for America on the Taliban

The question for America: is accommodation of Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan in accordance with our war objectives, set out by the AUMF?

Americans should rightly be asking what the objective is in the billions of U.S. dollars of funding for Pakistan's military, and what the overall war strategy is in America's alliance with Pakistan. Not only has Pakistan agreed to truce with the Taliban, but also now Pakistan's president has set expectations that the Taliban are a legitimate part of Afghan society and can and should be incorporated as part of the Afghan political process. This is the same Taliban that supported and aided Al-Qaeda training camps to attack the U.S. on 9/11.

But that also calls for America making the tough and honest decisions on who and what we are fighting in the "War on Terror", and setting the boundaries around whom and what our enemy is in this war. Because any strategic ambiguity in the identity of the enemy is a two-sided sword, and can also be used by other countries in failing to crush the ideology of the enemy, allowing it to be gain strength and regroup again.

This also means honesty about why America was attacked by Jihadists, so that the war strategy against Jihadists has effective goals and objectives, not stall tactics and appeasement.



August 13, 2007: Pakistan Daily Times - Musharraf says not all Taliban terrorists

August 12, 2007: Associated Press - Pakistan, Afghanistan mired in extremism, Pakistan president says

August 11, 2007: Pakistan Daily Times - Pakistan jirga spokesman says Pakistan to follow jirga decisions

August 9, 2007: The Gulf News - Legislator urges jihad to counter American threat

July 22, 2007: Pakistan Daily Times - Govt asked to "accommodate" new Taliban proposals

October 2, 2006: The Weekly Standard - Pakistan Surrenders -- The Taliban control the border with Afghanistan - by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Bill Roggio

September 27, 2006 - A battle lost in the war on terror - by Tony Blankley

September 24, 2006: Daily Telegraph - Omar role in truce reinforces fears that Pakistan 'caved in' to Taliban

September 16, 2006: Daily Telegraph - NATO backs down over Pakistan ultimatum

September 15, 2006: Daily Telegraph - US outraged as Pakistan frees Taliban fighters

Waziristan Accord - September 5, 2006

September 6, 2006: Pakistan Dawn - Waziristan accord signed

September 5, 2006: BBC - Pakistan 'Taleban' in peace deal

Authorization for Use of Military Force (Enrolled Bill), September 18, 2001

September 18, 2001 - U.S. Authorization for Use of Military Force

War in Afghanistan (2001–present)

Cluster References to "Taliban" in U.S. Final Report of the 9/11 Commission

August 3, 2007: Pakistan Link - Pakistan needs no foreign aid to tackle terrorists: Musharraf

July 15, 2007: U.S. plans $750 million in aid for Pakistani tribal areas

Spring 2007: The Washington Quarterly: "When $10 Billion Is Not Enough: Rethinking U.S. Strategy toward Pakistan" -- Craig Cohen and Derek Chollet

March 6, 2007: Wall Street Journal -- Is Pakistan Giving Enough Quid for the U.S.’s Quo?

May 21, 2007: New York Times News Service - U.S. funnels billions to anti-terror ally

May 24, 2007: ANI - Pakistan largest recipient of U.S. anti-terror funds: Report

July 27, 2006: Congressional Research Service report on Pakistan funding