Neither good nor bad, only ugly

All Taliban is anti-India. Distinction between Af & Pak Taliban is fanciful.

After the restoration of Sharia law in Swat, there are a few utterances attributed to the US which should raise our antennas.

Spokesman Gordon K. Duguid, asked to comment on enforcement of Sharia-based justice system in Swat said, “as I understand that Islamic law is within the constitutional framework of Pakistan, so I don’t know that is particularly an issue for anyone outside of Pakistan to discuss.”

Pressed if Washington saw the agreement as a good or bad development, he said “We have seen these sorts of actions before,  what is important is that we are all working together to fight terrorism, and particularly to fight the cross-border activities that some Taliban engage in, in attacking in Afghanistan.”[APP]

Here is another one.

On Tuesday night however, US officials in Islamabad privately backed the deal as an attempt to drive a wedge between Swat’s Taliban, which is focused on its demand for Sharia law, and the al-Qaeda-linked Taliban led by Baitullah Mehsud, the notorious commander who controls much of North and South Waziristan and other tribal areas along the Afghan border.

While they expressed fears that the deal might yet be sabotaged by some Swat Taliban militants who support al-Qaeda, they said that if successful, the deal would break up the alliance between the two groups, which has caused alarm throughout Pakistan and in Washington.[The Telegraph]

There are three major arguments being made for justifying this distinction between the good Taliban and the bad Taliban or Taliban-A and Taliban-P. These are not new arguments, for they have been made in many variations by Musharraf and his apologists since 9-11.

1] Pakistan Taliban is different from Afghanistan Taliban. Pakistan Taliban is only interested in establishing a truly Islamic republic in Pakistan. It is benign towards the US and doesn’t pose any direct threat to the US. It is the Afghanistan Taliban that is directing its ire against the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and it was the one that supported the al Qaeda.

2] There is nothing wrong in having an Islamic Republic of Pakistan, run as per the Sharia law. It can still be an ally of the US. After all, Saudi Arabia is a non-democratic, Islamic republic run as per the Sharia, and still friendly to the US. The US should look at a Talibanised Pakistan in the same light as it considers Saudi Arabia.

3] Divide ut imperes — Divide and Conquer as a strategy against the two forms of Taliban. It always appeals to the military strategists, especially to some one like Admiral Mullen, who is so fond of drawing parallels with the Roman empire.

The same arguments were put forward during the Bush administration when selected al Qaeda operatives were arrested and handed over to the US while the Taliban was left untouched by the Musharraf regime. So, there is little likelihood that a chastened US administration would buy the same argument any longer. As David Sanger has noted, the incursion by ground forces started after Kayani was tapped calling Haqqani a strategic asset of the Pakistan army. And the increased frequency, scope and severity of the drone attacks suggests that US is rather indifferent to the arguments put forth by Pakistan.

However, there remains a short-term need for the US to conduct successful presidential polls in Afghanistan later this year. The need for having a conducive security environment to conduct credible elections may force the US to seek cooperation with Pakistan by temporarily agreeing to its groundses. While the violence is contained in the short-term, this window of opportunity will allow Petraeus to finalise alternate supply routes for coalition forces in Afghanistan. If this compromise with Pakistani interests is part of a coherent, long-term strategy, then where the US goes to after the presidential polls in Afghanistan will determine the future of the region.

The other arguments to punch holes in the Pakistani argument are too well known to be repeated. The fountainhead of both, Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban, are the Madrassas of the frontier areas and Taliban-A and Taliban-P have fought together against the US and NATO forces inside Afghanistan. Besides this strong ideological connection, there is little distinction between the two Taliban except for the word of their handlers: Pakistan army and the ISI — X is a good Taliban and Y is a bad Taliban. Furthermore, the rise of Taliban inside Pakistan has to be seen in light of the increased radicalisation of Pakistan army, which directly controls the nukes in that country.

As far as India is concerned, there is no good or bad Taliban for it to face; all of them are anti-India and the face of this amorphous jehadi entity is only one — ugly. By now, India has realised that there is no independent course that it can charter in AfPak, except influence US policy in its favour. This is an unfortunate fact and India has to live with that. What India must do is to continously emphasise the jehadi-army-nuke connection inside Pakistan besides actively supporting — diplomatically and militarily — all US endeavours that at worst, contain, and at best, destroy the jehadi radicalism in the region.


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2 Responses to Neither good nor bad, only ugly

  1. Kaps February 18, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    A Taalib is just a student of Islam, whether in Afghanistan, or Pakistan. This theory of obfuscation has been played out earlier and one can only hope that strikes at Khurram are the beginning of the end game. Even if Al-Qaeda is contained, there are numerous other heads driven by the same ideology that makes them all students of Islam. Short way out, find an alternate source of energy, dry up the petro-dollars and it is more than likely that this virus will be defeated.

    On another front
    “…..The fountainhead of both, Afghan Taliban and Pakistan Taliban, are the Madrassas of the frontier areas and Taliban-A and Taliban-P…..”

    Now that Arjun Singh has allowed Madrasas to be affiliated with CBSE, is it the beginning of Talibanisation of India too?

  2. confused_indian February 18, 2009 at 10:37 pm #


    “While the U.S. media has frequently reported on Pakistani ties to jihadi elements launching attacks in Afghanistan, it has less often mentioned that India supports insurgent forces attacking Pakistan, the former intelligence official said. “The Indians are up to their necks in supporting the Taliban against the Pakistani government in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” the former intelligence official who served in both countries said. “The same anti-Pakistani forces in Afghanistan also shooting at American soldiers are getting support from India. India should close its diplomatic establishments in Afghanistan and get the Christ out of there.”

    “None of this is ever one-sided,” he added. “That is why it was so devastating and we were so let down” when India got taken out of Holbrooke’s official brief.

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