Before London Afghanistan conference, hope for Taliban deals
The US and its NATO allies are moving toward a fund to encourage Taliban members to lay down their arms and work with the Afghanistan government in Kabul. Hamid Karzai is hopeful ahead Thursday's London conference.
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New German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle spoke yesterday about a “completely new incentive for the reintegration of insurgents into Afghan society,” while the newspaper Handelsblatt reports German funding in the “two-figure millions of dollars."Skip to next paragraph
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Skeptics say that many ardent Taliban are not fighting for money, that there are few jobs to offer foot soldiers, and that the Taliban will come out of the hills, take money, and return. On Wednesday, Taliban leaders “rejected” reconciliation on their website, saying that Taliban would “not accept money…in an exchange for their cause.”
One Pakistani analyst of Afghanistan said that “Fathers in the village can declare two sons as Taliban, collect – and also declare one son loyal to the government, and also collect. You may find a rush for young men to declare themselves Taliban, to make some earnings.”
Yet reintegration comes amid fluid Afghan dynamics. While Taliban forces showed far more strength this winter than anticipated, experts say their ability to hold territory is not strong. Local populations are divided – and some studies show that among foot soldiers, religious passion may have waned, with large cohorts of Taliban fighters on board for reasons unrelated to jihad.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the Senate Foreign Relations committee, for example, that “...the Taliban leadership do not have as their principal aim Al Qaeda's violent global jihadist agenda. The vast majority of its low- and mid-level fighters are certainly not motivated by it."
The Pakistani analyst, who requested anonymity, says that many Taliban joined out of frustration, poverty, or to settle feuds with cousins or local tribal warlords. While Taliban leaders could well target soldiers who leave their ranks – such behavior, “especially if it is killing Pashtuns,” could spark intra-ethnic fratricide, and on-the-ground public relations problems for the Taliban.
Other potential positives from a policy to carefully flood the poverty- and war-stricken land with funds, is to allow a second or third level of Taliban leader to reflect. It is a breed of somewhat influential Taliban who may have a business across the border, are relatively educated, want to prosper – and may be on the fence.
On Tuesday, the UN took five senior Taliban off its international "blacklist" of 140 Taliban thought to have strong ties to Al Qaeda. The delisting of a former foreign minister and four deputy ministers is a move seen as encouraging a certain Taliban “type.”