Former Afghan Spy Chief Slams Taliban Talks

BY Herschel Smith
13 years, 5 months ago

From The Washington Post:

Peace talks with the Taliban will lead to disaster unless the insurgent group is disarmed first, Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief said Thursday.

Amrullah Saleh, who headed Afghanistan’s spy agency from 2004 until earlier this year, said the key to peace with the Taliban is cutting off their support from Pakistan and disarming and dismantling the group before allowing them to operate as a normal political party.

“Demobilize them, disarm them, take their headquarters out of the Pakistani intelligence’s basements,” Saleh said. “Force the Taliban to play according to the script of democracy,” he added, predicting the party would ultimately fail, “in a country where law rules, not the gun … not the law of intimidation.”

Saleh said the United States should give Pakistan a deadline of July 2011 to pursue top insurgents inside their borders or threaten to send in U.S. troops to do the job.

Saleh, who headed the Afghan National Directorate of Security until he resigned last June from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government, warned an audience at the National Press Club that failure to cut off Pakistani support would allow the Taliban to only pretend to make peace, then sweep back to power after NATO troops leave.

The former spy chief’s comments display the dissension at the highest levels of Afghan political society over whether to engage the Taliban in talks, or keep fighting them. His criticism of Pakistan also highlights the widespread suspicion among Afghanistan’s elites that the neighboring power continues to allow militants to flourish inside Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have said that such a deal is key to drawing down U.S. and NATO troops, starting in July 2011, with eventual handover to Afghan forces in 2014.

Saleh said this year’s surge of U.S. troops had accomplished a “temporary effect” of securing some territory, but failed to change the “fundamentals.”

“The Taliban leadership has not been captured or killed,” he said. “Al-Qaida has not been defeated.”

He added: “The current strategy still believes Pakistan is honest, or at least 50 percent honest.” Still, he predicted Pakistan would continue to support the Taliban and other proxies to try to maintain influence in Afghanistan.

Saleh ran Afghanistan’s intelligence service after serving in the mostly ethnic Tajik Afghan Northern Alliance, which battled the Taliban before the U.S. invasion. Many members of Tajik regions together with other Afghan minorities have warned of another Afghan civil war if Karzai makes a deal with Taliban.

Not much talk here of digging wells, handing out candy to the children and providing governance to the people.  Much talk of killing Taliban and al Qaeda, incursions into Pakistan and disarming and dismantling the insurgents.

What a breath of fresh air to hear honest analysis from someone on the scene and who should be “in the know.”  As for killing or capturing Taliban leadership, he refers – it seems to me – to senior leadership.  That would be a good thing of course, and my lack of admiration for the HVT campaign has been primarily associated with mid-level commanders.  I applauded the killing of Baitullah Mehsud (TTP).

Still, I believe that the best way to handle the insurgency and marginalize the leadership is from the bottom up, not the top down.  Either way, Saleh deals with the whole of the insurgency when he discusses disarming, dismantling and killing.  That about covers it.

As for Pakistan, there is no hushed, reverent tone in his missive in respect for their being a nuclear power.  There is no respect for an imaginary Durand line.  There is only knowledge that the Taliban and al Qaeda live in the Hindu Kush, Nuristan, Kunar, Helmand and surrounding areas.  They must be killed.  Would that our own strategic thinkers were so clear-headed.


Comments

  1. On December 10, 2010 at 8:26 am, TS Alfabet said:

    Another critical take-away from Saleh’s remarks is the implicit assessment of Afghan security forces.

    In Saleh’s view, he greatly fears another Afghan civil war if the Taliban are not disarmed. According to the article, Saleh said that “failure to cut off Pakistani support would allow the Taliban to only pretend to make peace, then sweep back to power after NATO troops leave.”

    In recent comments, it has been argued by some that the Afghan army and national police will soon be able to hold off the Taliban, that with additional training and mentoring, the U.S. will be able to draw down its combat troops and increasingly turn over the fight to the ANA and ANP. For some reason, however, Mr. Saleh does not seem to share that view.

    Sometimes the dog that doesn’t bark is the one you should pay most attention to.

  2. On December 11, 2010 at 12:02 am, dennis said:

    I have seen some interviews with Saleh in the past,hell even 60 minutes did one. This guy knows what he’s talking about. And was the best thing afghanistan had going for it, To bad karzai had a hard on for him for speaking is mine often openly, he was forced out.

  3. On December 11, 2010 at 9:09 pm, RRK said:

    As we all know the Taliban and the other alphabet soup of terrorist groups would have died off long ago with the support of Pakistan. Unfortunately I do not think this administration or any other would do anything about it.

    Hey on a good note my brother has arrived safely home from his third trip to that neck of the woods this year.

  4. On December 12, 2010 at 2:03 am, Herschel Smith said:

    Good to know that your brother got back safely. Please keep us posted and relay any info you can.

    V/r,

    HPS

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This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Taliban and was published December 10th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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