Indian Decade

Karzai Wrong on Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is wrong to assume there’s a moderate Taliban he can work with.

Newspaper reports in the United States are suggesting that Hamid Karzai is ready to reach an accord with the Taliban and with their Pakistani handlers. As a consequence of Karzai’s likely policy shift, his principal spymaster Amrullah Saleh and his Minister of the Interior, Hanif Atmar, have resigned in protest.

Karzai’s chosen course is intrinsically flawed. To begin with, there are no ‘moderate’ Taliban. The obscurantist forces, who are unalterably opposed to the presence of the International Security Assistance Force that props up the Karzai regime, will brook no compromise. They may agree to some notional power-sharing plan but will ultimately oust Karzai and his allies from playing any viable role in government. The regime they will spawn will be a throwback to another age, with all the attendant human rights issues that were implicated when they were in power in their first incarnation.

Apart from the inherent costs of working with the Taliban and their feckless sponsors, such an accommodation would have significant implications for regional and possibly global security. At a regional level, in particular, the biggest loser would be India.  It’s currently the fifth largest aid donor to Afghanistan, its developmental activities have been exemplary and it desperately seeks to keep the Taliban at bay. India’s concerns are entirely understandable. During the Taliban regime all manner of vicious Pakistan-linked terrorist organizations trained and operated from Afghan soil. A return of the Taliban could again enable them to re-group within Afghanistan.

The return of the Taliban could also have adverse consequences for global security. Given the tenacity and the intransigence of the Taliban toward the Western world would they be averse to allowing al-Qaeda affiliates from again finding a safe haven within Afghanistan having forced the ISAFR to depart and marginalizing the Karzai regime?