Saturday, September 02, 2006

Talking to the Taliban

Via the Globe and Mail:

OTTAWA -- Canada should withdraw its troops from the current mission in southern Afghanistan and invite Taliban fighters to peace talks, NDP Leader Jack Layton said yesterday.

"We believe that a comprehensive peace process has to bring all combatants to the table. You don't accomplish peace if those who are fighting are not involved in the peace-based discussion," he said.

Those sentiments, coming from Layton, ought not be a surprise, but they sure didn't merit an attack like this:

Today's important Globe and Mail story "buries the lead". It's not really news that Jack Layton of the NDP wants our troops to cut and run from Afghanistan (just months after a vote in the House of Commons extended our mission there till 2009) or that Layton wants to negotiate with Taliban terrorists (is NDP star candidate, Monia Mazigh -- wife of Maher Arar -- Layton's terrorism advisor?)

The author of that libelous attack: Ezra Levant of the Western Standard. Maher Arar is the Canadian man intercepted by US authorities in 2002 in New York who was 'extraordinarily rendered' to Syria where he was tortured for months before finally being set free. His wife, Monia, ran in the last election in Ottawa South but lost to Liberal David McGuinty. She fought tirelessly to win her husband's release and for Levant to use his grandstanding, attention-whoring platform to attack her by associating her with terrorists is beyond the pale.

Please write to the Western Standard at this address and demand a retraction:

Now, moving on to the fact that the Liberal's defence critic Ujjal Donsajh told the G&M that he also supports the idea of negotiations with the Taliban:

Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh also rejected the NDP call to withdraw troops, but agreed that talks with the Taliban could be helpful.
Mr. Dosanjh did not criticize Mr. Layton for wanting talks with the Taliban. He said Afghan President Hamid Karzai has recently urged foreign troops to treat insurgents as Afghan citizens and diminish the focus on killing.

"Whether or not it involves the Taliban fighters, I think we need to recognize that Mr. Karzai has said that whenever we're killing Taliban, they are Afghani, many of them," he said.

Will Dosanjh get a free pass for making such a suggestion or will he also be forced to resign like Borys Wrzesnewskyj? Anything less would reek of hypocrisy on the part of the Liberal party, wouldn't it?

While the idea of including the Taliban in peace talks might be extremely offensive to those who believe that you should never negotiate with terrorists, the fact is that NATO has secretly been doing exactly that:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- High-stakes talks involving Canadian and other NATO officials were underway Thursday that could see insurgents put down their weapons in a key Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan.

The clandestine negotiations, led by Afghan authorities but involving NATO intermediaries, were being held as hundreds of Taliban fighters amassed within two kilometres of a Canadian outpost west of Kandahar, preparing for battle.

The unprecedented talks are so sensitive that, officially, NATO insisted it was not in direct contact with Taliban leaders.

“ISAF hasn’t been approached by any faction of the Taliban,” said Canadian Forces Maj. Scott Lundy, a NATO spokesman. “At this point, no official involvement.”

However, intermediaries quietly got involved after Taliban leaders insisted on talks with NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, or other international facilitators, rather than with the Afghan government, The Canadian Press has learned.

“In fact, they are scared of the government,” an Afghan official said of the Taliban leadership, on condition of anonymity.

“Their requirements are to talk with (ISAF) or with the (UN). ... They trust these two organizations more than anyone else.”

Lundy acknowledged NATO was at least aware that talks were going on. “There is a dialogue underway already with some Taliban in Kandahar province,” he said.

So, while Layton and Dosanjh have already been roundly criticized for for their statements about talking to the Taliban, what those critics won't admit is that it's already being done.

When military missions like those in Afghnistan, Iraq and Lebanon fail because the nature of the counter-insugency strikes are not effective in winning the peace, there must be alternatives. The black and white thinking that holds fast to the idea that these wars can come to a successful conclusion if only more bombs are dropped, more insurgents are killed and more civilians are placed in peril to the detriment of the supposed aims of those who brought the battle to those countries in the first place is and has been a recipe for disaster. That is why, sooner or later, you must talk to your enemy.

Afghan president Karzai cannot put up with the situation in his country indefinitely and the ongoing instability is weakening the democratically-elected government - the same effect that Israel's attacks on Lebanon produced:

According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, most Afghans have long favored a process of amnesty and reconciliation; and President Hamid Karzai recently called on the Bush administration to change course and stop killing Afghans. But US administration policy, recently reaffirmed in Kabul by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, calls for a fight to the last Talib.

Predictably, Afghan public opinion has been turning steadily against the largely powerless central government, guarded in the capital by foreign forces. The insecurity endured by most Afghans - the absence of peace - is enough to make them give up hope in President Karzai, often jeeringly referred to as the "mayor of Kabul" or "assistant to the American ambassador".

The American nation building experiments in Afghanistan and Iraq have failed.

Critics of US Afghan policy agree that the Bush administration, in its haste to take out Saddam Hussein's Iraq, did things backward. After bombing the Taliban into the boondocks in 2001, it set up a government without first making peace - a scenario later to be repeated in Iraq.

Instead of pressing for peace negotiations among rival Afghan parties, the victorious Americans handed power to Islamists and militia commanders who had served as America's stand-in soldiers in its Afghan proxy war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Then the Bush administration staged elections for these candidates and touted the result as democracy.

So, what options are left at this point? If the NATO-led coalition just plans to 'stay the course' in Afghanistan, as the Americans have in Iraq, the future is predictable: endless fighting with no hope in site. And, while politicians squabble about whether or not it's appropriate to speak to the enemy in order to foster peace, innocent civilians are dying every single day - as are coalition soldiers. 14 Brits lost their lives in what is believed to be an accidental helicopter crash on Saturday while Canadian casualties have also multiplied this summer. Just how long do those politicians expect the public to support a mission that's not bringing the desired results? And, how much more will it cost in lives and lost hearts and minds before they change course? We, as citizens with soldiers in those war zones, deserve to know the answers to those questions and should not be expected to support such a mission silently, without dissent and a call for action.

Layton is right. Dosanjh is right. And, Wrzesnewskyj was right. And those who refuse to acknowledge the fact that only negotiations can bring peace when all else has failed hold the lives of all of our soldiers and those innocent civilians on their conscience.

There is nothing so likely to produce peace as to be well prepared to meet the enemy.
- George Washington

Listen to your enemy, for God is talking.
- Jewish Proverb

If you want to make peace, you don't talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.
- Moshe Dyan

In order to rally people, governments need enemies. They want us to be afraid, to hate, so we will rally behind them. And if they do not have a real enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

“From a certain point of view our real enemy, the true troublemaker, is inside.”
- The Dalai Lama

See also: Talking to Hezbollah

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