Moderate Taliban. Really?


The most interesting discussions prompted by the summit on Afghanistan’s future held in London yesterday were centred around suggestions of negotiating with the Taliban. Although both sides are understandably wary about discussing details, a UN official confirmed a special envoy had met with Taliban leaders on January 8th after they had requested talks.

The idea is to talk to ‘moderate’ Taliban, although as this Reuters story points out, many Afghan women are alarmed at such a prospect:

‘[M]any Afghan women, who remember very clearly what life was like under the Taliban from 1996 to 2001, are outraged by the idea.

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‘On Wednesday, groups representing Afghan women warned the international community against pursuing a peace deal with the Taliban. “I have great fears, and I am greatly confused . 2001 was a very clear signal that there is no more room for conservative elements to rule in Afghanistan,” Homa Sabri of the United Nation’s agency for women, UNIFEM, told Reuters in London.’

I suspect they have every reason to be worried. Just because the Taliban are growing ‘tired’ of fighting doesn’t mean that once a reintegration process starts they will abandon their entire belief system – a set of beliefs that place little value on these women’s rights.

Presumably many of those who signed up to fight for the Taliban weren’t doing so simply for the career opportunities – they were motivated by values that include an eye on turning back the clock on everything that has been gained in the past eight years. Western nations are desperate for a way out of a war that is increasingly unpopular and a lasting peace in Afghanistan, if it is possible at all, will need to be an inclusive one. But is this the right way?

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