The Failure of Talking with the Taliban

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 2 months ago

In a cheap imitation of the Anbar awakening, late in 2007 the British cut a deal with one Mullah Abdul Salaam, a mid-level Taliban commander, to assist in the eviction of the Taliban from Musa Qala.  The price for this help was governorship of Musa Qala.  When British and U.S. forces converged on Musa Qala, rather than helping in the operations, Mullah Salaam stayed in his compound in Shakahraz, ten miles east, with a small cortège of fighters, where he made increasingly desperate pleas for help.  “He said that he would bring all the tribes with him but they never materialised,” recalled one British officer at the forefront of the operation. “Instead, all that happened was a series of increasingly fraught and frantic calls from him for help to Karzai.”

So rather than help in the campaign, he hid from the bad people.  It was said at the time that “We have in him a credible governor who is making an impression upon us and the people,” an officer in Musa Qala concluded. “He is a compelling individual. But we still don’t know what his ulterior motives are.”  But time has made his ulterior motives somewhat clearer.

There is a growing rift between Salaam and the British.

A former Taliban commander who swapped sides last year has accused his British allies of jeopardising security and undermining his authority in a row that has plunged their relations to an all time low.

Mullah Salam was made governor of Musa Qala, Helmand, after British, American and Afghan forces retook the town in December. His defection was the catalyst for the operation. But the British fear his warlord ways are hampering their efforts to win over local people, and driving them back into the hands of the insurgents. They have branded him a “James Bond baddie” and accused him of running a personal militia of ex-Taliban thugs, while doing nothing to support reconstruction.

Mullah Salam says British soldiers are wrecking his attempts to bring security by releasing people he arrests and underfunding his war chest – which he claims is for buying off insurgent commanders.

The British, with hundreds of troops at the 5 Scots headquarters inside Musa Qala and more in nearby outposts, suspect he is on the take. The top British diplomat at the headquarters, Dr Richard Jones, said: “He likes to feather his own nest.”

Both groups know his fate is being closely watched by other Taliban commanders thinking about changing sides.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ed Freely, who commands the Royal Irish troops training Afghanistan’s army, said: “He appears less interested in governing his people than reinforcing his own personal position of power.”

The Canadians would do well to watch the signs.  The liberal Senators have called for negotiations with the Taliban, or else the conflict in Afghanistan could carry on for a “very long time,” a Senate committee concludes in a new report.  But a Taliban spokesman sneered at this offer.  “I ask the Canadian people to ask their government to stop their destructive and inhumane mission and withdraw your troops,” Yousuf Ahmadi, speaking from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, told CBC via cellphone.  “Our war will continue as long as your occupation forces are in our land,” said Ahmadi, CBC reported on its website.

The history of negotiations with the Taliban has been disastrous, and every time they have been tried, the losers end up being Afghanistan and the ISAF because the “negotiations” are not occurring from a position of strength.  It’s time to end the farcical pretensions of negotiations with sworn enemies.  Instead, we must resource the campaign.


You are currently reading "The Failure of Talking with the Taliban", entry #1161 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Taliban and was published June 23rd, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

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