In Afghanistan, Concessions Are Appeasement
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani's recent peace overtures to the Afghan Taliban amount to appeasement and should be condemned by the United States. This week, regional and world leaders met at a conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan to discuss peace in Afghanistan, but luckily, the Taliban did not attend. Neither the U.S. nor Afghanistan should negotiate with the Taliban, unless it is to accept the Taliban's unconditional surrender or the defection of individual Taliban members. Instead of offering concessions, the U.S. should show strength and resolve in the face of unbridled evil.
In late February, President Ghani called for a ceasefire, suggesting that the Taliban could become a legitimate political party. He offered to issue the Taliban passports and have their names removed from terror lists if they renounced violence. On March 5, Alice Wells, the principle deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, praised the offer, calling it a "historic and benchmark event" and "forward-leaning." A desire to end the seemingly endless conflict in Afghanistan should not encourage the U.S. or Afghan governments to minimize the threat posed by the Taliban's ideology.
The Afghan Taliban are one cog in a global movement that seeks to subject the world to fundamentalist Sunni Islam. The Taliban's goals are to take over the Afghan government and implement sharia law. This archaic and oppressive legal system allows the rape of non-Muslim or uncovered women, child marriage, and spousal abuse and calls for the death of adulterers, critics of Mohammed, and apostates. The Taliban's ideology and goals, similar to those of ISIS, are antithetical to Western values and do not belong in the 21st century.
Peace by any means is not desirable if a cessation of hostilities means allowing the Taliban to gain a foothold inside an unstable Afghan government. Anti-Semitism, bigotry, Muslim supremacy, chauvinism, repression of speech, and other illiberal views have no place in the modern world and especially not in a political party. Permitting members of the Afghan Taliban to openly participate in Afghan government will allow their cancer to spread. Fundamentalists are dangerous as long as they believe in this violent, theo-political ideology.
Official recognition of the Taliban would legitimize and embolden Islamists throughout the region. What would happen if a Taliban party grew in power and were able to implement its ideological goals? Would we allow its members to enforce laws restricting the rights of women and minorities? Allowing the Taliban back into the Afghan government would plant the seeds for another terrorist haven – the very reason the U.S. went to war in 2001.
The Taliban are not substantially different from other Islamic terrorist organizations, so would the U.S. recognize a political party for ISIS or al-Qaeda? Would the U.S. have allowed Osama bin Laden to become a member of the Afghan Parliament if he condemned terror? Even if the Afghan Taliban were to surrender, the problem would not end, because ISIS, the Haqqani Network, and other Islamist groups in Southwest Asia would continue their common struggle. Instead of evaluating each terrorist group in a vacuum, the core problem of fundamental Islam needs to be addressed.
While the United States is experiencing an opiate and opioid epidemic, the Taliban are supporting drug-traffickers in Afghanistan, the source of at least 77% of the world's heroin. According to the United Nations 2017 World Drug Report, as much as half of the Taliban's $400-million income likely comes from narcotics, making them one of the world's most powerful narco-terrorism organizations. Because of the Taliban's deep connections to the drug trade, legitimizing them would exacerbate the deep corruption within the Afghan government and bolster the ability of drug-trafficking groups to spread their poison and violence around the world.
Much of Afghanistan is currently under the influence of the Taliban, who have murdered hundreds of police, military, and civilians in recent months. In January there were two notable attacks in Kabul, where 95 people were killed when an ambulance packed with explosives detonated, and another 22 people were murdered during an attack in the Intercontinental Hotel. Any peace talks amid this high level of violence will likely be interpreted as weakness. Concessions should never be made in response to terrorist attacks.
The only negotiation the U.S. should support is for the Taliban's unconditional surrender. The Taliban need to be soundly defeated to stop the endless cycle of violence, and that entails a firm moral stand, not appeasement. So far, the Taliban have not accepted President Ghani's proposal, but even making the proposal is damaging, because it muddies the moral distinctions between Islamism and human rights. A clear statement of acceptable modern, liberal values and a stern condemnation of the Taliban are the only response to the supremacist, totalitarian ideology of fundamental Islam.
Jeffrey Higgins is a retired DEA supervisory special agent and the former DEA assistant country attaché in the Kabul Country Office. He spent more than three years in Afghanistan an achieved the first narco-terrorism conviction. His writing can be found at JeffreyJamesHiggins.com.