Nir Rosen on the Afghan Taliban

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Friday, October 10, 2008 at 1:15 pm

My friend Nir Rosen, recently back from embedding with the Taliban in Afghanistan, talks about being taken by the Taliban to a war zone near Wardak, and I suddenly feel so much less badass about my recent Afghanistan trip.

“Negotiation might be a great idea,” Rosen says, “but the Taliban may not feel like they should” negotiate, because they might get more out of a war with the Karzai government than by any promise of inclusion. The Taliban already have governors in Afghanistan loyal, or acquiescent, to them.

Interesting items from Nir’s Afghanistan trip:

The Taliban he talked to drew a distinction between the Afghan security forces (they kind of like them) and U.S. forces (they don’t like them).

Taliban commanders believed girls should go to school, “provided they were properly covered,” but if they went to school with boys “they’d contract HIV.”

They watched Al Jazeera and then “Indian soap operas, with women that were relatively scantily clad.”

With some of the Taliban, “I wouldn’t call them moderates or liberals,” but there’s a strain that Rosen describes as “pragmatic” and would negotiate with the Karzai government. In parts of Ghazni, the Taliban patrol openly, with RPGs out and everything.

Some of them talk about “fighting the Americans after they leave” as a matter of national pride. Police defected in Helmand to join the Taliban. In Ghazni, the Taliban governor actually issues Taliban passports.

“They’ve really taken over much of the countryside,” Rosen says, “I think the U.S. is incapable of defeating them. … There’s a real sense of hopelessness on the part of the international community in Kabul. … The Afghan government is a joke.”

Elections won’t save us, he says: negotiate with the Taliban, even if the Taliban might not go in for it.

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