United States Action
|Jihad and the
"Reconciliation" with Taliban
October 17, 2008
by Jeffrey Imm
American military leaders are calling for talks with the Islamic supremacist Taliban in Afghanistan, as part of some type of political "reconciliation" with Islamic supremacists in Afghanistan to promote "peace." Such military calls for "reconciliation" with Islamic supremacists in global theaters of war complement the increasing calls for "engagement" with Islamic supremacists by individuals in the counterterrorism and foreign policy communities. Both groups use terms that sound appealing to an innately peace-loving America. However, such efforts at "reconciliation" and "engagement" are ultimately calls for surrender in the war of ideas against Islamic supremacists - by legitimizing the infiltration and influence of Islamic supremacists in dealing with Jihad.
More dangerously, such calls for "reconciliation" and "engagement" fail to grasp that as Islamic supremacists gain more legitimacy, they will gain more influence and members. By failing to confront the ideology of Islamic supremacism and therefore empowering it, efforts by advocates of "reconciliation" and "engagement" will help Islamic supremacist organizations grow. Jihad is based on Islamic supremacism and views America as a natural obstacle to their goals for a global Islamic caliphate. Therefore, such efforts at "reconciliation" and "engagement" will ultimately help to grow more Jihadists for future attacks on America. Instead of bringing "peace" and defending America, the sponsors of "reconciliation" and "engagement" are going to help the Islamic supremacist enemy grow stronger by proving the Jihadist argument of America's "weakness" in defending its values.
America's military leaders' recent support for "reconciliation" negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban is a wake-up call to all of us as to just how dire our situation is in the war of ideas. The American public must confront its military and political leaders on this issue. We cannot afford a continuing "war on extremism," without a clearly defined enemy in Jihad and an acknowledgement that Jihad is based on the ideology of Islamic supremacism. America's armed forces' sacrifices demand that the American public make this important strategic definition of the enemy a priority to each of us.
To do so, the American public will need to hold those leaders accountable who have focused on a tactical "war on extremism," and demand that they develop a true war strategy that is more than battlefield tactical planning. Such demands for accountability and criticism of these leaders may be unpleasant and unpopular; that does not make it any less necessary.
1. American Military Leaders Support Surrender in War of Ideas to the Taliban's Ideology
Any time anyone calls for "peace" with Islamic supremacists, they are effectively legitimizing the ideology of Islamic supremacism and surrendering in the war of ideas, where the long term war will be won or lost. We are seeing this happen in Afghanistan in calls for negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban.
Last year, between August and October 2007, America saw the push for foreign and diplomatic organizations in calling for "peace" talks to the Taliban in Afghanistan. In August 2007, we saw then Pakistan President Musharraf calling for a mainstreaming of the Taliban in Afghanistan as a political organization, arguing that the "Taliban are a part of Afghan society." In September 2007, we saw Afghanistan President offer the Taliban a role in the Afghanistan government, as part of peace talks with the Taliban. Such offers peace talks with the Taliban in September and October 2007 were supported by the U.S. State Department, UK Defense Secretary, and UN Secretary General's Special Envoy in Kabul Tom Koenigs.
But last year, in October 2007, the U.S. military leadership still viewed the Taliban as "the enemy." Now, in October 2008, we have U.S. Defense Secretary Gates, General Petraeus, and U.S. General for NATO McKiernan calling for "reconciliation" and a political solution with the Islamic supremacist Taliban organization in Afghanistan.
On October 6, 2008, AP reported that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates "endorsed efforts to reach out to members of the Taliban or other militants in Afghanistan who may be considered reconcilable, much like what has happened in Iraq." AP stated that Secretary Gates told reporters that "efforts must be made to determine who is willing to be part of the future of Afghanistan and who is not." He was further quoted as stating, "Part of the solution is reconciliation with people who are willing to work with the Afghan government going forward... That is one of the key long-term solutions in Afghanistan, just as it has been in Iraq." Secretary Gates also told reporters that he welcomed reported efforts by Saudi Arabia to host negotiations between the Afghanistan government and the Islamic supremacist Taliban group. On October 8, 2008, the Pakistan Daily Times reported this discussion as "US Defense Secretary Robert Gates on Monday endorsed efforts to reach out to Taliban or other militants in Afghanistan who may be considered reconcilable." On October 10, 2008, Reuters/AFP reported that "Gates said reconciliation would be the political end to the insurgency and war in Afghanistan but, he said, reconciliation must be on the Afghan government's terms and the Taliban must commit to subject itself to the sovereignty of the government." On October 7, 2008, Dawn reported on Gates' comments as believing "that this target can be achieved if the Taliban renounce violence and sever their ties to Al Qaeda." Defense Secretary Gates was quoted on October 10, 2008 by Reuters/AFP that the U.S. "would not consider any negotiations with Al Qaeda."
Defense Secretary Gates' views demonstrate the flaws in the "regionalization" argument that the ideology behind global Jihad must be examined through a regional filter, treating each instance of Jihadist activity in the world as isolated incidents. Although Secretary Gates is against negotiations with Al-Qaeda, he supports the idea of "reconciliation" negotiations with the Taliban, based on the conscious denial of their shared ideology of Islamic supremacism and their shared goals in seeking a global Islamic caliphate. This conscious denial creates an artificial world of distinctions between the Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, where such "regional" Taliban Islamic supremacists could be considered for peace talks. This is the same conscious denial that has Secretary Gates identifying our enemies as "extremists," and defining the enemy as "extremists" in the 2008 National Defense Strategy. Islamic supremacism is an inconvenient truth for some American military leaders that would get in the way of a tactical-centered war. It is so inconvenient that such truths are ignored completely. The concept that Islamic supremacism itself is an inherent violence against the values of equality and liberty is not acknowledged, because acknowledging this would mean America would have to rethink its entire approach to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
U.S. General David Petraeus will assume command over the US Central Command at the end of October 2008, and will be in charge of all U.S. military operations in the area including Afghanistan and Iraq. On October 8, 2008, AFP reported that "General David Petraeus said Wednesday that attempts are being made to open talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan and that the United States should be prepared to engage with its enemies." AFP reported that General Petraeus "noted that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has asked Saudi Arabia to arrange peace talks with the Taliban, and added 'there also have been some local activities.'" General Petraeus stated "If there are people that are willing to reconcile, then I think certainly that that would be a positive step in some of these areas that have actually been spiraling downward throughout the course of this year."
On October 8, 2008, Reuters also quoted U.S. General Petraeus on UK comments in calling for negotiations with the Taliban. The Reuters report states that "[t]he British commander in Afghanistan, Brig. Mark Carleton-Smith, also told the Sunday Times that negotiations with the Taliban could bring needed progress. Asked about those remarks, Petraeus noted that Britain's long experience negotiating with adversaries helped reduce violence in Iraq. 'They've sat down with thugs throughout their history, including us in our early days, I suspect,' he said." Here again is where U.S. military leaders' failure to identify the enemy threat of Islamic supremacism leads to absurd comments as well as absurd tactics. How could a U.S. general describe American Revolutionary War fighters as "thugs," let alone allow for a comparison with Islamic supremacists in either Iraq or Afghanistan? The idea that an American general could even tangentially suggest a comparison between General George Washington and the Taliban's Mullah Omar is a disturbing relativism. This will be our new commander of the U.S. Central Command.
AFP also quoted General Petraeus as stating that "I do think you have to talk to enemies." Notably, the October 8, 2008 AFP report does not mention anyone asking General Petraeus to actually define who exactly America's "enemies" are in Afghanistan or defining the enemy's ideology. We have reached such a consensus of denial on Islamic supremacism that we just won't talk about such issues. America's military leadership will only address "extremism" and Al-Qaeda as the sole definition of the enemy threat. As previously discussed, Osama Bin Laden is also against "extremism," demonstrating the weak value of this meaningless, but inoffensive, term.
The NATO commander in Afghanistan, U.S. General David McKiernan, stated in August 2008 that in fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan the "answer must be found politically." In June 2008, General McKiernan repeated the short-sighted and inaccurate "regionalization" argument about Islamic supremacists that "[t]he Taliban, I look at as a regional threat... Why people fight, here, for the Taliban or for the insurgency I also believe is for a variety of reasons. Poverty, fear, intimidation, some for ideological reasons, some because it's the fighting season and there's a history of violence in this country, some for inter-tribal reasons." General McKiernan views Afghanistan as a "very, very complex security environment," which are code words for "don't hold me accountable for not having a strategy or a defined enemy." General McKiernan goes on to state that "[t]he insurgency here comes from a variety of influences. It's much more than just a religious or ethnic division." So don't expect General McKiernan to have a position on Islamic supremacism any time soon. That would way too simple for such a "very, very complex" issue.
But General McKiernan does not view Afghanistan as too complex to prevent "reconciliation" negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban. On October 2, 2008, AFP reported that General McKiernan "did not rule out reconciliation with ousted Taliban leader Mullah Mohamed Omar." AFP reported that, at a Pentagon press conference, "[a]sked whether dealing with the man who harbored Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was beyond the pale, McKiernan said, 'I think that's a political decision that will ultimately be made by political leadership.'" McKiernan continued to state that "Ultimately, the solution in Afghanistan is going to be a political solution not a military solution.... So the idea that the government of Afghanistan will take on the idea of reconciliation, I think, is (an) approach and we'll be there to provide support within our mandate." Without the ability to actually define an enemy that America is fighting in Afghanistan, General McKiernan told the Pentagon press conference that "We're not going to run out of bad guys there that want to do bad things in Afghanistan." There was no report of anyone challenging General McKiernan for seeking a political "reconciliation" that could include the same Taliban that sheltered the 9/11 attackers who attacked the same Pentagon where the press conference was being held. Moreover, the failure to identify an Islamic supremacist enemy results in military leaders like General McKiernan who are left with repeatedly define the enemy as nothing more than "bad guys." After all, according to General McKiernan, the "security environment" is so "very, very complex."
On October 16, 2008, Reuters published a follow-up interview with General McKiernan stating that "Western pessimism over the conflict in Afghanistan is unwarranted, [per] the U.S. general leading the fight." In the interview, General McKiernan again reiterates that "ultimately the outcome in Afghanistan will not be a military outcome, it will be a political outcome." General McKiernan told Reuters that "to say we are losing or the Taliban are winning is simply not true," and that "I want to stay committed to this battle of perceptions." This is the same General McKiernan who describes the enemy as "bad guys," and seeks political "reconciliation" between the Afghanistan government that could include the Taliban. Regrettably, General McKiernan is more concerned about winning his so-called "battle of perceptions" than winning the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism. Despite his zig-zagging interviews (that we are for negotiations with the Taliban, but we are not losing), in the war of ideas where such U.S. military leaders refuse to acknowledge the Islamic supremacist threat, any suggestion of negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban serves to legitimize and empower Islamic supremacism as an activist ideology. As a result, U.S. military leaders such as General McKiernan are losing the "battle of perceptions" as well as the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism.
On October 9, 2008, the New York Times reported on a "draft report by American intelligence agencies [that] concludes that Afghanistan is in a 'downward spiral' and casts serious doubt on the ability of the Afghan government to stem the rise in the Taliban's influence there, according to American officials familiar with the document." Not surprisingly, the inability to define the enemy is not mentioned as an issue in the New York Times report. The next day, October 10, 2008, Joint Chiefs of Staff Michael Mullen told reporters how "it's been very, very tough fighting this year," and how America will make no progress until "the political piece, the diplomatic piece, the economic piece" of our efforts in Afghanistan are improved. This focus on "reconciliation," "political," and "diplomatic" efforts is nothing less than successive U.S. military leaders laying the groundwork for accepting negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban in Afghanistan.
While such American military leaders play appeasement politics with Islamic supremacists, America's on-the-ground armed forces in Afghanistan bravely continue to fight an enemy that is poorly defined by their leadership. As the U.S. 101st Airborne Division's Major Patrick Seiber states: "We are going to go at them, let there be no doubt about that."
2. Afghanistan's Karzai Seeking "Peace" Deal with Taliban - Again
In October 2008, a few months before another Afghanistan winter, Afghanistan President Karzai reportedly started making "peace" offers to the Taliban, inviting Taliban's Mullah Omar to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan for Afghan political discussions with the Taliban. This is the same Taliban leader Mullah Omar that the U.S. Rewards for Justice program still has posted a $10 million reward offer for information on his whereabouts. Mullah Omar's wanted poster where U.S. is "Seeking Information Against International Terrorism" states that: "Mullah Omar's Taliban regime in Afghanistan sheltered Osama bin-Laden and his al-Qai'da network in the years prior to the September 11 attacks. Although Operation Enduring Freedom removed the Taliban regime from power, Mullah Omar remains at large and represents a continuing threat to America and her allies."
A year ago, in September 2007, Afghanistan President Karzai, our so-called "ally," offered to meet with the Taliban's Mullah Omar for peace talks, and offered the Taliban a role in the Afghanistan government. This was supported by the U.S. State Department, UK, and the United Nations. The Taliban rejected his offer then and apparently have rejected his offer now. The Taliban likely view Karzai's calls for accepting the Taliban as a sign that they are winning the war in Afghanistan, and thus far, their strategy has been that they have no need to compromise with Karzai if they are winning. The October 8, 2008 Christian Science Monitor quotes former Taliban official Waheed Muzhda: "The meetings signal that the Afghan government is weak and is desperate for a solution."
Regardless of this, in October 2008, Afghanistan President Karzai has reportedly continued to seek negotiations with the Taliban. In addition to offering "safe passage" for the Taliban's Mullah Omar to Afghanistan for negotiations, Afghanistan President Karzai has also been reportedly working with another so-called "ally" Saudi Arabia to hold talks between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban. While U.S. Defense Secretary Gates and General Petraeus have confirmed such Saudi actions, some Taliban spokesman have denied such Saudi-hosted talks. AFP has reported that sources stated that while the Afghanistan government desired such talks, they had not taken place yet. On October 6, 2008, CNN reported that a Saudi source told them that planned Saudi-Afghanistan-Taliban talks were to take place in two months.
The CNN report also stated that Taliban Mullah Omar's "representatives were keen to stress the reclusive cleric is no longer allied to al Qaeda." This was echoed by an October 6, 2008 AP report that stated "Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi said Monday that the militant group is independent from al-Qaida." This is, of course, exactly what the "regionalization" tacticians want to believe. On October 7, 2008, Bill Roggio's Long War Journal reported: "[t]he Taliban have not broken ranks with al Qaeda, senior US military and intelligence sources told The Long War Journal. The idea that the Taliban has severed relations is promoted by European countries who wish to back out of Afghanistan after years of bloody fighting, the sources, who wish to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the subject, said." Bill Roggio's report continues to indicate that his sources indicate that the "Taliban" individuals allegedly in negotiations with the Afghanistan government are individuals "who have fallen out of favor with the Taliban high command."
On October 15, 2008, Reuters had a follow-up report interviewing former Taliban foreign minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil who claims that the Afghanistan Taliban is seeking to split with Al-Qaeda, stating that "Al Qaeda will not be allowed to create an obstacle... it is the right of Afghans to negotiate for peace." Reuters indicated that Muttawakil "does not speak directly for the Taliban," and referenced his role with the Taliban in 1996 to 2001. Bill Roggio's October 7, 2008 report, however, specifically points out how Muttawakil is viewed as an "outsider" to the current Taliban leadership. According to Bill Roggio's sources, "Mutawakil, who served as the Taliban's foreign minister in 2001, has long fallen out of favor with the Taliban, according to sources as well as reports in the press. 'He has no authority among the Taliban leaders who matter,' said one senior source."
The Afghanistan government has continued to promote negotiations between Afghanistan and the Taliban. The October 11, 2008 Daily Telegraph reported that Afghanistan President Karzai has again offered the Taliban a role in the Afghan government. The Daily Telegraph report stated that "President Hamid Karzai has offered Taliban leaders the possibility of positions in his government if they agree to a peace deal which could bring fighting to an end"... and that "the Sunday Telegraph has learned that the allies would insist that the Taliban would have to split with al-Qaeda and provide information on international terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan as the price of a deal." If true, such an offer fits with the inaccurate view of "regionalization" tacticians who believe that we can readily divide Islamic supremacist groups into factions that will allow negotiation with some groups. Because the "very, very complex" enemy is merely defined as "extremism," acknowledging such Jihadist groups' overall ideology of Islamic supremacism is not being taken into consideration, and idea that some Jihadist are merely "regional" versus "international" simply demonstrates a total refusal to understand Islamic supremacism and Jihad.
Not that Afghanistan President Karzai minds such confusion among Western leaders. In the long-standing tradition of so-called "allies," President Karzai of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan continues to play both sides - just as the other Islamic governments and "allies" of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have done. Afghanistan President Karzai has spent the past summer blaming the Islamic Republic of Pakistan for the problem of the Taliban and its "insurgents," calling for the international community to act against the Taliban in Pakistan. Reuters reported in August 2008 that Karzai stated that "the danger against his country and the foreign troops was in Pakistan." There is no doubt as to the culpability of Pakistan here, with former Pakistan Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif (PML-N) readily offering to be a negotiator with the Taliban, who his government supported; Nawaz Sharif also sought to expand Sharia law in Pakistan - a chief goal of the Taliban.
But this dire problem of the Taliban is certainly not one that Afghanistan President Karzai is not only willing to negotiate with, but also willing to offer a role in the Afghanistan government -- while America's armed forces are sacrificing their lives in Afghanistan. On October 12, 2008, Roznama Mashriq reported that the Taliban responded to Karzai's offerings of negotiations with a vow to continue suicide bombings against American and NATO troops.
Once again, this highlights the problem in American leadership's failure to define the enemy and its ideological basis in Islamic supremacism. Such failure prevents the creation of any coherent strategy in dealing with Islamic supremacism when working with "allies" that lead Islamic governments themselves.
3. The European-Left Bandwagon of Surrender to Taliban
Such calls for "reconciliation" with the Islamic supremacist Taliban organization have also been recently promoted by leaders in the United Nations, UK, France, Denmark, by political commentators in the UK and European press, and by left-wing commentators in the United States.
A primary source of the surrender bandwagon has come from "our ally" the United Kingdom over the past several years, as the UK has an aggressive policy in "counter-radicalization" and "regionalization" of Jihadist threats that refuses to recognize Islamic supremacism. UK Security Minister West, senior UK law enforcement, and government individuals have called for talks with Al-Qaeda. So it should be little surprise that there would be a push for negotiations with the Taliban from the United Kingdom.
In September 2007, then UK Defense Secretary Des Browne stated that "the Taliban will need to be involved in the [Afghanistan] peace process," and called for creation of an Afghanistan legal system "that has its roots in Islamic law." In December 2007, the UK MI6 engaged in negotiations with individuals allegedly linked to the Taliban in Afghanistan. In March 2008, Des Browne again called for negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan. In August 2008, Des Browne told BBC that the Taliban were not a "strategic threat" in Afghanistan.
So why should anyone be surprised when a member of the UK military leadership calls for talks with the Taliban, because the war in Afghanistan "cannot be won"? On October 5, 2008, the London Times published an interview with UK Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith titled "War on Taliban cannot be won, says army chief." In that interview, the London Times quotes Carleton-Smith that "We're not going to win this war," and states that "Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith said the British public should not expect a 'decisive military victory' but should be prepared for a possible deal with the Taliban." The London Times also quotes UK Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith as stating, "If the Taliban were prepared to sit on the other side of the table and talk about a political settlement, then that's precisely the sort of progress that concludes insurgencies like this. That shouldn't make people uncomfortable." On October 5, 2008, the Daily Telegraph further reported that "A Ministry of Defence spokesman defended the brigadier's comments and said the aim was to provide a secure infrastructure for the Afghan National Police and Afghan National Army. 'We have always said there is no military solution in Afghanistan. Insurgencies are ultimately solved at the political level, not by military means alone,' the spokesman said." This report came a few days after the October 2, 2008 London Times report that the UK Foreign Office's Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles that the "American strategy [in Afghanistan] is doomed to fail."
After UK Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith's comments, the current United Nations' special envoy to Afghanistan, Kai Eide, echoed his agreement to AKI on October 6, 2008, stating, "I have always said to those that talk about the military surge... what we need most of all is a political surge, more political energy.. We all know that we cannot win it military. It has to be won through political means. That means political engagement." The AKI report indicated that Italian politician and former NATO commander Italian General Mauro Del Vecchio agreed with this stating, "We need to help Karzai engage in dialogue with those elements of the Taliban who are most open to this."
On October 9, 2008, Expatica/AFP reported that French military General Jean-Louis Georgelin also supported the comments by British Brigadier Mark Carleton-Smith, stating "A British officer 'was saying that one cannot win this war militarily, that there is no military solution to the Afghan crisis and I totally share this feeling,' Georgelin told French television channel Public Senat." On October 7, 2008, AP reported that French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner "says negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are desirable and France would take part in any such talks." AP also reported that Koucher "hopes Paris will play host to the planned meeting of officials from the insurgency-wracked country. He says neighboring Iran and Pakistan would also be invited." On October 8, 2008, AFP reported Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller also "supported the idea of the Afghan government holding talks with the Taliban," with Moeller's conditional support that "[w]e should civilize the Taliban."
A series of media commentators in Europe echoed support for such Taliban-Afghanistan negotiations.
--- In Germany, this included Die Tageszeitung ("Without the Taliban, there will be no lasting peace"), Die Welt (the "Taliban is actually an extremely heterogeneous group with various interests")
--- in United Kingdom, this included Independent ("conflict will then have to be resolved through political means"), Daily Telegraph ("Saudi Arabia can rein in the Taliban and al-Qaeda")
American left-wing commentators grasped on calls for negotiations with the Taliban as an issue for the U.S. presidential election, as shown by repeated articles by Huffington Post blogger Robert Naiman. Robert Naiman praises the UK calls for negotiations with the Taliban. Robert Naiman also called on the U.S. presidential candidates to support calls for negotiations with the Taliban, based on comments by U.S. General Petraeus and U.S. Defense Secretary Gates. The relativist left-wing Robert Naiman applauds U.S. General Petraeus' absurd tangential comparison of Taliban to the American revolutionary founding fathers, stating "This suggests a broadness of perspective for which I had not previously given him credit. Maybe he should run for Congress."
In his calls for surrender to the Taliban, American left-wing commentator Robert Naiman further complains that America has "demonized" the Taliban, who have "legitimate aspirations," stating: "One obstacle seems to be that our politicians have painted our country into a rhetorical corner through years of demonizing the Taliban, without acknowledging that, regardless of their crimes, they might have some legitimate aspirations - like driving foreign troops out of the country." He also asks: "Why not begin the process of accommodating reality now, and avoid the needless deaths?"
Robert Naiman ignores that it was the Islamic supremacist Taliban that provided refuge to Al-Qaeda planners of the 9/11 attacks on America; he argues that America has "demonized" the Taliban. He also ignores that the ideology of Islamic supremacism even exists, and fails to recognize its enmity to equality and liberty. The worst part is that one questions whether he even cares.
American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. stated: "A man who won't die for something is not fit to live." That is the American philosophy for fighting the supremacist threat to equality. Supremacists are "all or nothing" ideologues; their tactics may change, but they won't change - until and unless they are massively confronted. Defenders of equality must recognize this and confront supremacist ideologies in every aspect and every area of life. The United Kingdom and Europe does not have America's historical experience of confronting identity-based supremacism on a vast scale. Some of America's left-wing have long ago adopted a relativistic view to other ideologies and consider American influence as the source of most problems in the world.
Therefore, the "reverse discrimination" argument found in parts of UK, Europe, and the modern American left-wing is based on a nihilistic relativism that views Islamic supremacists as "victims" of "Islamophobes." In the view of relativists in UK, Europe, and the American left-wing, the problem is not a conflict between Islamic supremacists and nations that value equality, freedom, and pluralism. The relativist argument is that the problem is America not minding its own business by accommodating Islamic supremacists in foreign affairs. Not surprisingly, relativists also aren't looking to "die for something," since after all, from their perspective, values are relative. The growing influence of European and left-wing relativists, and the unwillingness of American military and political leaders to clearly define Islamic supremacism as an ideological threat, has created a "perfect storm" of individuals seeking to either pull out troops from Afghanistan or appease the Taliban. (Non-interventionists have also latched onto this argument deriding "American foreign policy" to push their own agenda, which is why you see non-interventionists such as Michael Scheuer on AntiWar.org making arguments similar to those made by the relativists.)
UK and Europe could reasonably question U.S. Defense Secretary Gates calls for more European troops in Afghanistan when U.S. Defense Secretary Gates defines the enemy as "extremism," or when U.S. General McKiernan defines the enemy as merely "bad guys." It would be fair to ask if America's military leadership had a clue as to who and what they were fighting, or what values they are fighting for against "extremists," especially in view of U.S. General Petraeus' description of American fighters during America's Revolutionary War for freedom as "thugs."
But that is not the basis for the European-Left bandwagon supporting calls for negotiations and surrender in the war of ideas with the Islamic supremacist Taliban. The basis for this European-Left surrender bandwagon is ideological relativism, and an unwillingness to have values that are worth fighting to defend. Any one of dozens of issues could be a basis to derail such a surrender bandwagon: commitment to equality, women's rights, freedom of speech, and freedom of press. But the unpleasant fact that Americans must come to realize is that this European-Left bandwagon calling for negotiations with the Taliban exists because such relativists really believe that these values are not being threatened by Islamic supremacists and that they really are not committed to defending such values.
4. "Reconciliation" and the Tribal Argument
On October 8, 2008, AFP reported that "General David McKiernan, the top US commander in Afghanistan, has called for enlisting the support of Afghan tribes in much the same way that Petraeus did to turn Sunni tribes in Iraq against Al-Qaeda."
One of the repeated tactical arguments made by U.S. military leaders is that America can persuade Iraq or Afghanistan tribes to fight against foreign Al-Qaeda terrorists. This tactical argument continues to be used to deflect any meaningful questions about a real "war strategy." Furthermore, this tactic has no specific correlation to a war against Jihad and Islamic supremacism. This is hardly surprising since neither Jihad nor Islamic supremacism are targets in either the 2001 resolution authorizing force in Afghanistan or the 2002 resolution authorizing force in Iraq.
In arguing that such indigenous tribes will fight against Al-Qaeda, the massive assumption by some of those supporting such tactics is that such tribes and individuals in these tribes are truly against the Islamic supremacist ideology that is the basis for Al-Qaeda's Jihadist tactics in these countries, which has historically included a number of foreign Al-Qaeda fighters. The alleged "proof" of this is that some members of some tribes are against Al-Qaeda's tactics of killing local Muslims and that some members have complained of Al-Qaeda's efforts to instill Sharia law in some areas. The assumption here again is that this means that such "tribes" are therefore democracy-loving, pluralistic individuals, just like the average American.
Note that I have not mentioned that America's military leaders are making such assumptions. That would require that we assume that such American military leaders care about Islamic supremacism. All of the evidence that I have seen suggests that Islamic supremacism as an ideology is the one issue that such military leaders do not care about. In fact, the most troubling factor to consider when assessing the effectiveness of the support of indigenous "tribes" against Al-Qaeda is that such tactics are being supported by our military leadership in the vacuum of a defined Islamic supremacist threat.
In fact, such tribal backlash against Al-Qaeda may simply be due to their tactics in killing other Muslims or the presence of Al-Qaeda foreign fighters in their nation. What factual basis do we have that shows such tribal fighting against Al-Qaeda has significantly affected support for Islamic supremacism, which is the basis for Jihad? The painfully honest assessment of the reason why U.S. military leaders promote such tactics is their desire to extricate American troops out of these foreign battlefields of tactical operations (where they have neither a clearly defined enemy nor a war strategy), and the desire to restore "law and order" in these foreign battlefields. With Generals Petraeus and McKiernan's background in Iraq, one of their military tactical priorities has been on establishing "law and order" in Iraq, and this "law and order" focus is one that they are viewing for Afghanistan. But is this the goal of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- to establish "law and order" in foreign lands, without an acknowledgment or focus on the threat of Islamic supremacism?
In both Afghanistan and Iraq, where do our military leaders think indigenous "insurgents" come from? That's right; they come from the same Islamic populations that we believe that we have convinced to fight against Al-Qaeda. Marc Lynch has reported on comments by Iraqi Sunni Awakening leader Abu Azzam al-Tamimi stating that "[h]e waved away distinctions between the tribes and the insurgency - where, he asked, do you think the insurgency came from except from the tribes?" "He described al-Qaeda as a terrorist organization because of its killing of innocent Iraqis, but at the same time, he still had hopes for the Iraqi members of al-Qaeda (as opposed to the hated non-Iraqis). His main arguments against al-Qaeda focused on its foreign leadership: he scornfully dismissed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Abu Hamza al-Muhajir as 'non-Iraqi personalities working on Iraqi soil.' "
As we have seen before with the oft-promoted "anti-Al-Qaeda" Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif Al-Sharif (aka Dr. Fadl) who has "renounced" Al-Qaeda, taking a position against Al-Qaeda is not the same at all as being against Islamic supremacism or Jihad. In fact, in the case of Al-Sharif, while he condemns Al-Qaeda, he also supports Islamic supremacist Jihad, stating: "Jihad in Afghanistan will lead to the creation of an Islamic state with the triumph of the Taliban, God willing."
On October 2, 2008, General McKiernan spoke to reporters about the use of Afghanistan tribes in fighting the Taliban, with reports stating that "[d]rawing on the US experience in Iraq, however, McKiernan suggested that a rebalancing of power between the central government and the tribes could help provide security at a local level." Two weeks later, on October 16, 2008, the Christian Science Monitor expanded on this tactic in its article "To fight Taliban, US eyes Afghan tribes," stating the U.S. wants Afghanistan tribal leaders to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan, reiterating General McKiernan's support for such a tactic. The Christian Science Monitor describes an Afghan National Police officer's coordination with such an Afghan tribe: "'I tried to find a way to convince [the elders] that the police is at their service,' he says. 'I told them, 'Whatever decisions you make in your area, I accept it, but you have to be in control of law and order.' "
Without identifying the ideology of Islamic supremacism as part of the threat in Afghanistan, what will the tactic of promoting tribal involvement in "law and order" accomplish? This is a serious question given the calls for U.S. military leaders in support of Afghanistan negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban. Furthermore, some parts of Afghanistan have already found "law and order" with the Taliban.
On October 15, 2008, the Christian Science Monitor published an article titled "Some Afghans live under Taliban rule - and prefer it" that states that some Afghan people find "law and order" from the Islamic supremacist Taliban. The article quotes Afghans in the Logar and Ghazni provinces that view the Taliban as a force to provide "law and order" in Afghanistan, rather than the Afghanistan government. The article references the creation of Taliban Sharia law courts in Ghazni province to settle disputes. In Afghanistan's Logar province (40 miles from the capital of Kabul), the article quotes one source that: "The police are just for show. The Taliban are the real power here." It quotes another Logar local source, Abdel Qabir, that the Taliban "share the same culture and brought security." In Afghanistan's Ghazni province, the article quotes Abdul Halim: "We have no TV. We can't listen to music. We don't have parties. But at least we have security and justice."
On October 2, 2008, the UAE's The National reported an interview with Afghanistan senator for Logar province, Abdul Wali Ahmadzai, who was kidnapped and held hostage by the Taliban for two months. Afghanistan Senator Abdul Wali Ahmadzai was quoted as stating "The important point is that the people support the Taliban. This is the main problem: now the people do not like the government and they support the Taliban." Senator Ahmadzi indicates that the Taliban resurgence is growing within Afghanistan among the Afghan people, and stated that "One Talib even came and said he voted for me, so I represent their side as well."
Where exactly does American military leadership think that Afghanistan's Taliban come from? Just like the Iraqi "insurgency," they come from the Afghanistan people. This remains a strategic issue that has never been settled for Afghanistan, and our growing challenges in Afghanistan reflect this strategic vacuum on identifying Afghan sympathy for Islamic supremacism.
As the New York Times reports that senior U.S. commanders are assessing the Afghanistan mission, CBS News reports an interview with U.S. Major General Jeffrey Schlosser regarding growing numbers of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan. Major General Schlosser told CBS that "I'm telling you that the enemy did increase from 20 to 30 percent this last year... I'll tell you that they are doing more complex activities which concerns me greatly." Is this merely a "law and order" issue, or is this an ideological issue?
On October 16, 2008, AP raised concerns about "that militants may have infiltrated the Afghan police force." Where do they think such "militants" come from? Again, such Islamic supremacist "militants" are a part of the Afghanistan population. Other news media have reported of "defections" of Afghanis to the Taliban, such as former mayor of Afghanistan's Herat province Ghullam Yahya Akbari who leads Taliban fighters, and "said he is not interested in peace talks." But the true strategic question behind such reports of growing Afghan support for the Taliban is whether such support is based on ideological "defections" to the Islamic supremacist Taliban - or - whether such support is based on merely changing tactics of individuals whose ideological support for Islamic supremacism never changed in the first place.
The larger question that a clear identification of the enemy and its ideology would address is how much of Afghanistan does not share the goals of the Taliban and does not support Sharia law? We have seen repeatedly arrests by our so-called "ally" Islamic Republic of Afghanistan government of individuals for "blasphemy" and for being "apostates." We have seen calls for the death penalty in the elected Afghanistan government for both of these "Islamic crimes." Without addressing the larger strategic issue of the Islamic supremacist ideology, what does America seek to "win" in Afghanistan? "Law and order"? Because in parts of Afghanistan, some Afghan citizens view that "law and order" is being provided by the Islamic supremacist Taliban today. Tactics to achieve "law and order" would clearly be insufficient to address any war goals involving defeating Islamic supremacism as an ideology.
A troubling parallel can be found with our other so-called "ally," the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The American executive and military leadership repeatedly has referred to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan as an "ally" in the "war on terror" (more recently being referenced as a struggle against "extremism"). But from a perspective of fighting the ideology of Islamic supremacism that is basis for Jihadist terrorism, how could anyone consider Pakistan an "ally"? Like the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, it has Sharia-based punishments for "apostasy" and "blasphemy." Like the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, its population has had significant support for the Taliban. But most importantly, on consistent national polls over time, 75 percent of the Pakistan population thinks it is "important" that the Pakistan government implements "strict Sharia law" (August 2007 poll, Q16E, page 34; January 2008 poll, Q12G, page 31; June 2008 poll, Q8g, page 44).
America's military leadership seems to identify our "allies" based on temporary tactical operations against "extremists" (a meaningless term). Without a military threat analysis of the ideology of Islamic supremacism, how can we view any of these nations as allies in the real war?
There are those who seek to justify "progress" in military battlefields no matter what happens, and there are those whose primary focus is the war on Jihad and Islamic supremacism. America's focus must be on clearly identifying the enemy ideology of Islamic supremacism behind Jihad and calling for America's concentration of resources to develop a strategy to win that war.
That is the real war. The individual theaters of battle in Iraq and Afghanistan certainly matter. But if we "win" battles, and lose the larger war, then America has not learned the lessons from 9/11. America's leadership owes the victims of 9/11 our commitment to never forget what was truly responsible for the Jihadist attacks on our nation -- the ideology of Islamic supremacism.
5. Surrender to Islamic Supremacists is a Result of a "War on Extremism"
Surrender in the war of ideas to the Islamic supremacist Taliban by American military leaders and our so-called "allies" may seem outrageous to many individuals who oppose Jihad and recognize its basis in Islamic supremacism.
However, a surrender of America's military, similar to the growing surrender in the counterterrorism and foreign policy communities, is the direct result of American political leaders' unwillingness to clearly define the enemy during war.
It makes logical sense that you can't win a war against an enemy you won't clearly define or against an ideology you won't acknowledge. Yet such denial remains the basis for U.S. military global tactics in fighting indefinable "extremists." Defense Secretary Gates defines the enemy as "extremists," and such "extremists" are the target of the June 2008 U.S. National Defense Strategy. As previously referenced, even Osama Bin Laden is against "extremists," which underscores how meaningless the term "extremist" is.
Furthermore, as the increasing problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan are showing, a "war on extremism" can mean whatever the current political leadership wants it to mean, because the enemy can't be clearly defined.
American military leaders can only discuss tactics and answer the questions "who, what, where, and when." The strategic definition of the enemy and the answer to the question "why" remains unanswerable for such military leaders, other than vague references to "extremism," grievances, poverty, ignorance, etc. This is from America's top generals, leaders of our global military command.
The basic philosophy of the "war on extremists" position is summarized by U.S. Defense Secretary Gates: "It's those who are not willing to participate in the political process and do so peacefully. Those are the enemy." This is not a war against Islamic supremacism that is the basis for Jihad. It is the statement of a military leader whose primary objective is to restore tactical "law and order" in foreign battlefields.
Until we recognize Islamic supremacism as the root of Jihad, whether they are Wahhabist Jihadist actions, Khumeinist Jihadist actions, or other Islamic supremacist Jihadist actions, all of our fighting, all of our sacrifices, will have not gotten us one inch closer to dealing with the real problem. Until we recognize Islamic supremacism as the root cause of the overall problems in Jihadist warfare, no truce, no agreements, will have any lasting benefits or accomplishments. Until we recognize the ideology of Islamic supremacism itself as the real enemy threat, we will not have any chance for any ideological reform that could ever get us moving in the direction of any type of lasting peace.
As part of an effort to guide America's military towards a "war on extremism," there has been a continuing campaign within America's military to prevent discussion of Jihad and Islamic supremacism. This campaign has included: (1) the efforts to remove the word "jihad" from U.S. military dialogue on the threat, (2) the efforts within military study groups to coach our military not to look at the larger Islamic supremacist threat, (3) the publications by the West Point Combating Terrorism Center calling for engagement with groups linked to the Islamic supremacist Muslim Brotherhood [page 5] and the whitewashing of "anti-Al-Qaeda" individuals [page 1] that call for Jihad against our troops, (4) the redefinition of America's enemy as "extremists" as stated by America's Secretary of Defense and in America's 2008 National Defense Strategy.
The few in America's military who have stood up to speak out against an honest threat assessment of Islamic supremacism, such as Steven Coughlin, were then quickly silenced.
This influence within and infiltration of America's military, combined with a failure to clearly define the enemy of Jihad and its ideology of Islamic supremacism, is now demonstrated by the embarrassing remarks of America's military leaders over the past several weeks in supporting calls for negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban in Afghanistan. The absence of a strategic and values compass among the American military leadership has now resulted in American military leaders making statements at the Pentagon on their willingness to consider negotiations with the same Taliban who sheltered those who attacked the Pentagon on 9/11. It is a low point in American history, to be certain, but if the American public does not act to reverse this campaign of appeasement, we will see far worse disgraces yet to come.
6. The Effect of "No Win" Tactics against Jihad and Islamic Supremacism
Withdrawals in both the war of ideas and the military war against Islamic supremacists are the result of: (1) widespread disagreement over who "the enemy" is, (2) frustration with a tactical-only centered policy abroad reaching a critical mass with the American public, (3) inconsistent results in fighting an undefined enemy, and (4) failure to educate the American public and organize a cohesive national strategy against Islamic supremacism and Jihad.
Tactical efforts are not enough against such an Islamic supremacist enemy.
Without a strategy against a clearly defined Islamic supremacist enemy, the twin paths of surrender via "engagement" and "reconciliation" with Islamic supremacists are gaining momentum among American military, counterterrorism, and foreign policy analysts, as they correctly sense that the American public has neither the continued patience nor the endless tax dollars to go in tactical circles indefinitely. But such paths of surrender will only lead to the inevitable empowerment of Islamic supremacists in recruitment to their cause and in the war of ideas, which will ultimately undermine America's national security to those who support Jihad.
As a result of our military leaders' confusion over the enemy's identity, America has seen individuals such as the New America Foundation's Peter Bergen call for America to "engage with Islamists," and asking (on Capitol Hill) what America's negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban should look like. Condemning the very idea of negotiations with the Islamic supremacist Taliban is not even a topic of discussion. As Peter Bergen told me a month ago on Capitol Hill, "not to engage with Islamists is ridiculous."
How did the America military and political leadership get in such a mess? The simple answer is that seven years after 9/11, we still don't have a declared war against Jihad or Islamic supremacism. Our enemy is tactically defined, not strategically. Therefore, the U.S. military focus in Afghanistan and in Iraq has been exclusively tactical.
In September 2001, the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Afghanistan called for military action against "those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States," including "nations, organizations, or persons he [the President] determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons." One problem with the AUMF - it was never revised to state who and what was the enemy. The enemy and its ideology were never specifically defined by American political leadership. Thus in Afghanistan, America fights "terrorists" and "extremists," but if there is push to argue that the Taliban are no longer "terrorists" or "extremists," then American military leaders can justify negotiations with them.
The war in Iraq is also comparably tactical. The goal was to prevent Saddam Hussein from providing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) to "terrorists." In October 2002, the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq "authorizes the use of all necessary means to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 660 (1990) and subsequent relevant resolutions and to compel Iraq to cease certain activities that threaten international peace and security." It mentions that "members of Al Qaeda"... "are known to be in Iraq." But it does not address the ideological enemy and it does not address Jihad. So any Iraqi Islamic supremacists that are against Al-Qaeda can be justified as tactical "allies" by American military leaders, even if they too support Jihad.
In the federal government resolutions on both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, you won't see the terms "Jihad," "Islamist," or "Islamic supremacist" ever used or mentioned. Nor have these resolutions ever been amended, and the references to Jihad and Islamism in the 9/11 Commission Report have been ignored by American executive leadership, military leadership, and much of its legislative leadership. Both war resolutions demonstrate an unwillingness to clearly define the strategic enemy. As a result, our military has adopted an endless set of tactical exercises to address these resolutions, which have been the source of endless tactical debates.
Without a clearly defined enemy and enemy ideology, we have seen Islamic supremacists gain power and influence in both countries' governments, at the American taxpayers' expense and our soldier's sacrifices for strictly tactical objectives, such as keeping peace, responding to attacks on Afghan and Iraq civilians, building infrastructure, and fighting "extremists."
Such a "no win" tactical approach to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars refuses to clearly define the enemy and the enemy's ideology. Such "no win" tactics are dependent on endless sacrifices of American soldiers and American taxpayers for political and military leaders who lack the courage to define the enemy.
Is that the war we are fighting?
If so, when will America begin the war against Jihad and Islamic supremacism?
America and America's armed forces can't afford a tactical "war on extremism" - not today, and certainly not tomorrow -- as the number of Jihadists will grow in the future based on American calls for surrender to Islamic supremacism through "reconciliation" and "engagement." America can't afford those leaders who call for surrender against Islamic supremacism, and America can't afford those leaders who refuse to fight it.
Our nation needs new leadership that will truly respect our use of America's greatest resources in fighting an enemy that our generals are afraid to name. Our nation needs new leadership that will demand those who shamefully call for surrender in the war of ideas to Islamic supremacists are removed from authority and government influence. Our nation needs leaders that will remember the lessons learned on 9/11 and that will finally define and confront the Islamic supremacist ideology that such Jihadist terrorism is based on.
America must demand military leadership that will truly lead in the real war, not call for "reconciliation" with Islamic supremacists.
Our armed forces and our nation cannot afford anything less than such leadership and direction.
Fear No Evil.
[Postscript - see also Sources documents for additional reading and background information.]