Saturday, June 28, 2008

Talking to the Taliban

Somehow I missed this from earlier in the month, but seeing as parliament has checked out for the summer, perhaps there’s a bit more time now to concentrate on some of the things that have slipped through the cracks in the fray of daily politics.

Here’s Scott Taylor (publisher of Esprit de Corps magazine) from his appearance on Canada AM earlier this month talking about whether the Canadian forces should negotiating with the Taliban and how the Harper government’s position seems to be out of step with the consensus of opinion amongst NATO military officers and various experts on the region. Recently, the Senate’s national security committee said progress has been made in the country, but the mission remains a formidable challenge and more aid and NATO troops are needed.

“Unless ordinary Afghans start seeing tangible benefits from the international aid effort on a widespread basis — which might lead them to urge the Taliban to either negotiate or even retreat — it will be difficult to see a positive outcome in Afghanistan,” the senators said in the report. Canadian soldiers and government officials in Kandahar should talk to the Taliban if they believe communication would encourage disarmament or improve the security of critical development projects, the six-member panel said.

Winning the hearts and minds of the populace in an intensely conservative and fundamentalist Islamic region such as southern Afghanistan is not easy, the report said. “In a country of intense poverty, it is not difficult to buy loyalty, and the Taliban have plenty of money raised from the drug trade and outside sources. Taliban fighters are well paid in comparison to just about everyone else in Afghanistan.” And Afghans have other grievances that strengthen the appeal of the Taliban, it noted.

“Hatred of foreign troops is… exacerbated by the historical fact that foreign troops in Afghanistan, such as the Soviets and British, have brutalized the Afghan population,” the report said. “NATO has a tough row to hoe in stimulating support for the Karzai government or any reasonable alternative.”

More highlights at The Torch and the Senate Committee Report itself here.