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The Taliban: Here To Stay?

The worst part about the recent shocking video from Afghanistan—of a woman brutally murdered by the Taliban for a trumped-up adultery charge—is that it depicts not only the gruesome present but also a potential future. Some argue that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014 will result in civil war, while others envision muddled yet sustainable power sharing. No one, however, can ignore the fact that the Taliban, barring a major and extremely successful NATO offensive between now and 2014, will be a significant power faction to deal with after the war is “over.”

Der Spiegel provides a peek into the parts of the country (more territory than U.S. officials ever expected) where Taliban rule goes unchallenged and will likely remain so when NATO leaves:

Abdul Kabir, [the Governor of Parwan’s] subordinate who runs the district of Shinwari, where the Taliban execution for alleged adultery occurred, can only receive visitors far away from his actual place of work, in the neighboring province of Baghlan. Here in his garden, Kabir explains that he’s essentially powerless in his district. Just two weeks ago, when Kabir dared to go in to his office for a day, a bomb went off under his Jeep. It was pure luck that he survived.

Given the weakness of the Afghan central government and military, officials like Kabir and his boss will remain marginalized by the Taliban’s grip on power in cities, towns, and rural areas in southern and eastern Afghanistan. President Karzai probably never wanted to make any generous postwar deal with his historical enemies, but his recent overtures to traditional Taliban sponsors Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as the inclusion of high profile former Taliban in recent dialogues, indicate that he might  have no other choice as NATO forces withdraw.

And if territory is given over to Taliban control, we’re sure to hear new and terrible stories of Taliban “justice.” If NATO manages to keep Afghanistan from being used as a base for new attacks on world targets, that would be a victory of sorts. But short of that, there isn’t much in Afghanistan for which US and EU public opinion is willing to fight.

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  • Susan

    The sad element to this story about the horrid treatment of women under Islamist rule is that back in 2003-when I lived in NYC-most of those I knew in my professional theatrical circle could only concern themselves with gay marriage in America.

    They would tell me about their fear of Bush’s ‘gay gulag’ and how Christian theocracy was overtaking the NAtion in which they lived.

    I weep for the all the women living in sexual apartheid oppressed by Islamist rule.

    And I no longer believe liberalism is about human rights, liberty, freedom and all that jazz.

  • Alex Scipio

    Put a fence around the entire country and sell them all the arms they want. Put a phone booth in the middle & call me when it’s over. Not one single thing in that barbaric, pre-literate “country” is worth the life of a single American. If they attack us again: nuke them. Places like Afghanistan are why nukes were invented; destroy the enemy at no cost to ourselves. But the concept that they can become a liberal democracy with western norms just by giving them a vote they have not earned and do not understand is just fantasy – one our best & brightest now are paying for with their lives and the lives of the children they will never have. Shameful is the only honest word to describe this policy.

  • Walter Sobchak

    The Taliban is a wholly owned subsidiary of the US’s enemy Pakistan. After we get our people out of Afghanistan, we must destroy the weapons we gave Pakistan. Maybe India will rescue the Afghans from the Pakistanis.

  • Andrew Allison

    As this short take makes it clear, the whole Afghanistan intervention was a colossal waste of blood and money.

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