Sunday, May 4, 2008

Talking to the Taliban (Part 7)

Via The Globe & Mail:

Suicide bombing used to be a subject of debate among the Taliban, as they struggled to decide whether the tactic was too extreme, but the frightening new reality in Afghanistan is that the radicals appear to be winning that argument within the Taliban ranks. None of the 42 insurgents surveyed by The Globe and Mail were willing to express any reservations about suicide bombings when confronted by a researcher with a video recorder, and many of them boasted that they were ready to volunteer for such missions themselves. Some Taliban have previously argued that it’s cowardly to wear an explosive vest, because it prevents an insurgent from fighting his enemy face-to-face. Others suggested that the carnage among civilian bystanders that often results from a suicide blast alienates ordinary Afghans from the insurgency. A Taliban faction even took out an advertisement in one of Kandahar’s weekly newspapers in 2006, blaming recent suicide bombings on foreign fighters and promising to stop the attacks: “We will punish them,” the advertisement said.

A year later, in the same province, all insurgents surveyed said they disagree. Suicide attacks are endorsed by religious authorities, they said, and they represent the Taliban’s equivalent of air power, a devastating weapon capable of carefully aimed strikes. Few of them blamed foreign jihadists for the attacks. The researcher asked them if the suicide bombers “are only Afghans or are they foreigners?” “They are sons of Afghanistan, and they are Afghans through and through,” a fighter said. “They sacrifice their lives for their country.”

A few of the Taliban seemed to acknowledge that it’s a controversial means of fighting, but they claimed that such tactics are necessary against the overwhelming technological superiority of the foreign troops. “Some people say that it is not good,” an insurgent said. “But they don’t know that against non-Muslims, it is very good, because they can stop any kind of attack but not these kinds of attacks.” Another gave a similar explanation: “It is good to be used against the non-Muslims, because they are not afraid of fighting for five days against us but they are afraid of one bomber,” he said. “I pray to God to make me able to do this.” The result of this shift in Taliban thinking has already become obvious in the number of suicide blasts. Afghanistan had never seen a suicide bombing before 2001, and the first such attack in the country -- on Sept. 9, 2001, targeting Ahmad Shah Massoud, the famed rebel leader who was fighting the Taliban -- was blamed on Arab extremists, not Afghans...