Wednesday, September 9, 2009

knowing your enemies

As the entanglement in Afganistan worsens and begins to increasingly resemble our past, it's important to be open to changes in the context. This week's call by the Taliban for an investigation into the air strike by NATO forces on fuel trucks that allegedly killed scores of civilians is an earthquake of a shift.

For the past eight years the argument has always been that the Taliban and al Qaeda were indistinguishable, repressive fundamentalist Islamic regimes responsible for a joint reign of theocratic terror upon the hapless Afgani population.

Until now, any civilian deaths by NATO/American hands would be presented by the Taliban and their allies as the inevitable result of invasion, and the central argument for the violent resistance to all foreign soldiers -- like the Soviets and British before them. [After all, al Qaeda's justification for its attacks on civilian targets in the United States is based upon an argument that Islam and the West are at Total War, with no distinction between civilian and military targets.]

In calling for the UN and other NGOs to participate in an inquiry, the Taliban simultaneously legitimates the humanitarian intervention by those groups, and de-legitimizes the Karzai regime. If this is the first step in a more developed position, and two camps could coalesce:
  • one with a multi-ethnic face demanding transparent rules of engagement with a welcoming hand to neutral international aid;
  • the other offering continued tribal strife, widespread corruption, and actively antidemocratic efforts to maintain its grip on power.
I know which camp our soldiers better not side with.

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