Talked to Death - New York Times Op-Ed

Talked to Death
By HASSINA SHERJAN, New York Times, May 8, 2009
Kabul, Afghanistan

FOR several years, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan has been trying to negotiate and reconcile with supposedly moderate elements of the Taliban to end the insurgency. This approach has failed every time. Thus it is puzzling to many Afghans that President Obama has also been talking about negotiating with “moderates.” Let’s hope that when the two men met in Washington this week, along with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, the idea of reaching out to the Islamic extremists was shelved once and for all.

After all, President Karzai’s efforts have simply revealed the weakness of the Afghan government and its international allies. Taliban spokesman have repeatedly demanded unacceptable conditions for talks, including the departure of all foreign forces from Afghanistan and the establishment of Shariah law.

Indeed, shortly after Mr. Obama raised the subject of reconciliation, the Taliban rejected his proposal, stating there were no extremists or moderate groups within their ranks. On this point at least, the Taliban are right. Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, put it very clearly: “The Taliban were united under the leadership of Mullah Muhammad Omar. All the fighters follow and obey orders of one central command. The existence of moderates and extremist elements within the rank and file of Taliban is wishful thinking of the West and the Afghan government.”

What can be the purpose of talks with the Taliban? These men deprive women of their rights, throw acid in the faces of schoolgirls, reject religious freedom and oppose constitutional democracy. They also threaten to kill any Afghans who have worked with Western militaries and nongovernmental groups or had other contact with foreigners.

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