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It’s good to be the Taliban

Published Nov 29, 2015 01:55am


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The writer is a member of staff.
The writer is a member of staff.

AFGHANISTAN is back in the news and you’ve heard the boys’ version. They want to make peace happen, but there’s only so much they can do.

The Taliban aren’t our puppets. We can’t just tell them what to do. And the Afghan government won’t listen to us. They are unreasonable. There’s only so much we can do.

We mean well. Give us time. Help us help you. Trust us.

It’s a good story. The Americans seem to politely agree. The Chinese are sympathetic too. Possibly because there’s some truth to it. More likely because they don’t have a choice — keep your eye on the prize, nod in sympathy, gently nudge along.

Man, it’s good to be the Taliban.

Think of it this way. If it’s all true, have the Taliban played us for patsies or what? Look at all that they’ve got from us in just the recent years.

If you could dream of a partner, there isn’t one better — with more advantage and less cost to yourself — than the Afghan Taliban have found in Pakistan.

We gave them sanctuary to survive the onslaught of the superpower surge. Mullah O — the fabled Mullah O who would rather die than leave his beloved Afghanistan — died in the best hospital in the biggest city we have.

Then, when he died getting the best medical care Pakistani rupees can buy, we helped maintain the lie about his death. Because, y’know, it could hurt T morale just when they really needed it in Afghanistan.

And all of that before the real kick to the head. When news of Mullah O’s dead is leaked to the world, we dive deep into the Taliban rabbit hole to keep the T united. Because a broken Taliban would be easier to fight militarily and manipulate politically.

So the new guy — Mullah Mansour — and his buddies are allowed to hold court in Quetta. None of that clandestine business even; right there in plain sight. Somehow, we convince the outside world, minus the Afghan government, to look the other way and not to pay too much attention to the Afghan government’s protests.

Meanwhile, over in Afghanistan, the TTP types helpfully nudged out of Fata are helping the cause of the preferred Afghan Taliban. Challengers to the Mansour camp are being mowed down.

And now the second kick to the head — we can’t tell Mansour what to do. Because he does what’s in his interest. And the Taliban’s interests and the Pakistani interest are not symbiotic.

So months, weeks, days after we help Mansour get his dream job, it’s already gone to his head and he won’t listen to us. Though he was listening to us when he was No 2, though really No 1 because we and he knew Mullah O was dead.

And now we can’t just go over to his place and make him listen — because, well, we can’t. Not unless the Afghan government plays nice first.

Man, it’s good to be the Taliban.

We should just hand over the keys to our place to them — with their smarts, if the Afghan Taliban were running Pakistan, Kashmir would already be ours and Delhi would be begging us to conquer them.

And all of this for what? The Taliban are the greatest beneficiaries of the Pakistani paranoia about India — perhaps second only to the boys themselves.

If you could dream of a partner, there isn’t one better — with more advantage and less cost to yourself — than the Afghan Taliban have found in Pakistan.

Ah, but history is history, you’re thinking. There ain’t anyone who can do anything about it now. In the here and now, we did say that we would bring the Afghan Taliban to the table and we did.

It wasn’t our fault that the talks were sabotaged. Now, we are again saying we’ll make it happen, and it’s in everyone’s interest to make talks happen, so let’s listen to the folk who can make it happen — the boys here.

But those with longer memories and more sceptical minds could point to three things.

One, once upon a time, during the talks that led to the Geneva Accords, we did a familiar-sounding thing — what we said at the table was very different to what we were doing on the ground. Today’s Afghan-led, Afghan-owned echoes that Geneva lore of non-intervention, non-interference.

Two, you could not make up a better script for these talks than the Taliban have got. Had Murree-II gone ahead and some big concession been made without the world knowing Omar was dead it would have shattered the T’s credibility. Murree-I, perversely, helped flush out the secret the Taliban had trapped themselves inside of.

Now, Omar’s shadow is disappearing and the military push by Mansour has made the Taliban the quintessence of the strategy that is talk and fight — the gains on the battlefield will be reaped at the negotiating table. And the gains are huge. For the Taliban.

Three, we’ve alienated and diminished the one leader who represented a historic opportunity — Ashraf Ghani. Instead of partnering him — like the N-League wanted, but was brushed aside partly because of — we’ve weakened Ghani at home and diminished him abroad.

If peace was the real purpose and the only goal, the most obvious route would’ve been to create capital for Ghani to help him fend off the hawks at home. Instead, we’ve demanded he do more for us.

So, yeah, Afghanistan is back in the news — but change you can believe in? Wait until you see it.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2015


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (53) Closed

AB, US Nov 29, 2015 02:45am

WOW! what a beautiful contradictory synergistic analysis, truly a gem of an article. It suffices the true nature of the problem and some sublime solutions with careful examination of its origin. Your bravery in expression is commendable, and none can stop your mighty pen that is mightier than a sword.

Muhammad Nov 29, 2015 03:12am

Brilliant analysis

Ravi Chandran Nov 29, 2015 04:06am

Hats off to you, Cyril! Stay safe. I'm sure all the intelligence agencies are fully aware of the gamesubject being played by the boys, but being that they control the nuclear trigger, one has to tread carefully. The country's long term interests are suffering while the civilian government gets blamed for all the ills unfortunately.

Haseena302 Nov 29, 2015 04:16am

Stay safe, Cyril

Tahir Majeed Nov 29, 2015 04:19am

Dear Cyril, Would you like to let me know what means by T. Thanks.

Dean Nov 29, 2015 04:27am

Boys have been Looking both ways for a very long time.

tariq Nov 29, 2015 05:10am

You are so right again Cyril

Bad shah khan Nov 29, 2015 06:28am

Wow you are one brave jurno, Clear cut to the chase thinking ...... Need more like you

lalu pasrassad Nov 29, 2015 06:47am

So nicely written ! i like "the boys" stuff you say

Sat Nov 29, 2015 06:49am

Master analyzer.....real journo in the crowd of lifafa journalists......brave man, kudos and be safe.

Mohmmad Saleem Nov 29, 2015 07:44am

Sans Pakistan,helping hands are being extended to Afghanistan in its struggle against the foreign sponsored barbaric terrorists. The Russian federation is the latest that is going to provide military hardware free of charge. China, intends to build ten thousands apartments in the capital city, Kabul, plus pledged to give military assistance without the Afghan government to pay a penny.

sana Nov 29, 2015 07:44am

I do not agree with the author, this article is a total fabrication , totally made up, we never had any contact will Taliban either in Afghanistan or Pakistan based and we never helped them in anyway.

taimoor khan Nov 29, 2015 07:47am

One, once upon a time, during the talks that led to the Geneva Accords, we did a familiar-sounding thing — what we said at the table was very different to what we were doing on the ground.

Table manners excepts us to agree politely but once we are out of the table , we can think what is in our best interests and do that.

lafanga Nov 29, 2015 07:49am

How can we forget the sacrifices made by the armed forces to protect our nation, if armed forces are getting some benefits, that is nothing compared to the risks they take, so we should be ready to help our armed forces in every way we can, make their life easier.

Vakil Nov 29, 2015 07:50am

Spot on...!! Even though the form of the article reeks of a rant :)

Arifq Nov 29, 2015 08:55am

Wars of ideology my friend, nothing changes because there is no material target!

Life Nov 29, 2015 08:59am

@taimoor khan You mean one should forget the commitments he has made if this suits him? I never know that.

Rajdeep Nov 29, 2015 10:01am

Really like Cyril's way of writing. Quite different from most Pakistani columnists. No beating around the bush. Very fast paced and hard hitting. Congrats.

rich Nov 29, 2015 10:11am

as a roman catholic goan am so proud of Cyril, and pakistn too bec a person from minority community can say and right against anybody as far as he speaks the truth

god bless

Feroz Nov 29, 2015 10:44am

@sana In which world do you live ? Must be very comfortable there since you do not want to come out and see whats happening around you.

Shalone Nov 29, 2015 11:19am

I agree with the author, Taliban are talk of the decade in many countries here or in west. Not because they are good, but because they are nuisance to themselves and others and appear to please and annoy many whatever they do. I hope they disappear and we can lead our own peaceful lives and we do not need America to make sure that democracy works. If Taliban would get a majority, we should accept them. But we know it is a small minority making a nuisance of themselves and others.

vasudevan Nov 29, 2015 11:51am

Brilliant analysis indeed. The paper has to be commended for publishing many such hard-hitting articles. Mr Cyril Almeida is very matter-of-fact and always to the point. The question now is what is there left to do in the Taliban issue?

auginpk Nov 29, 2015 12:16pm

Unbelievably brilliant.

AB, US Nov 29, 2015 01:45pm

@sana really. You can hide your head in the sand but the misdeed.

Suparco Nov 29, 2015 02:23pm

Hmm... so whats so wrong in boys still trying to mediate. It doesn't mean they its only to stay in a position of strength on their part. As much as N league wanted it, strengthening Ghani would have been far more difficult for Pak. Its just too impractical, considering he barely reigns over Kabul on his best days. Afghanistan's best hope is still a National Govt inclusive of stray elements i.e. the Mullah Masour led Taliban. A checked "political" Taliban are a better option then the current version - and this is not a bad strategy for long term peace.

Parvez Nov 29, 2015 03:17pm

Rather complex....but made me thing that we are bent on proving wrong the quote attributed to Einstein on insanity....doing the same wrong thing repeatedly expecting to get a different result......just suppose we do prove it wrong...wah !

khattak Nov 29, 2015 03:30pm

Boys are looser here. Afghans & the larger world is not accepting Taliban, nor they have the capability to rule the changed for good Afghanistan. Our world image is associated with Taliban which has isolated us to the extent that no team dare to come play cricket here let alone bring their investments.

LALAT Nov 29, 2015 03:48pm

@sana Dear Sana, I adore your comment. Satire at its best.

Trollslayer Nov 29, 2015 04:04pm

Afghanistan is a changed country and its political landscape has expanded to represent all its constituents.

Pakistan's old game of backing one faction or another at the expense of alienating the majority of Afghans has not worked for Pakistan nor is it going to work in the future.

Pakistan needs to get used to the fact that its days of influence in Afghanistan began and ended with the rise and fall of the Taliban 1996-2001. Get over it and move with the times. Nov 29, 2015 04:13pm

I wish if the writer of this article was appointed as adviser to Prime Minister of Pakistan.

Clubsandwich Nov 29, 2015 04:25pm

You can call "boys" whatever you want... As a layman I believe in what I see and I can see that even after two superpowers fighting a war in our neighbourhood, existence of multiple non-state actors as well as an aggressive eastern neighbour trying to exploit all this, proxy wars, factionalism/regionalism/sectarianism... we are still not Syria, Iraq or Libya... Long Live the "boys"

Trollslayer Nov 29, 2015 04:39pm

@Clubsandwich Pakistan cannot be compared to Libya because its army has been trained, funded and armed by the US since its very inception.

Adnan Aziz Nov 29, 2015 04:45pm

@sana You are badly mistaken here.

Ahmed Nov 29, 2015 04:55pm

Same old boys! Very good analysis

Ahmed Nov 29, 2015 05:05pm

@CLUBSANDWITCH You missed that because of 1971 war atrocities in bangladesh, we got our country divided. At least syria,lebanon,iraq are united.

Mujahed Ali Khan Nov 29, 2015 05:09pm

@Tahir Majeed

How dumb some people can be !!! T means Taliban

Adnan Aziz Nov 29, 2015 05:17pm

What does it mean when we say we have influence over Taliban? Can anyone enlighten me on this?

m m amin Nov 29, 2015 05:22pm

@Clubsandwich great . You have said it so few words . Congrats .

Bhagwan(luminous one) Nov 29, 2015 05:31pm

Pakistan doesn't want genuine peace in India and Afghanistan.

Kuppudu Nov 29, 2015 05:47pm

The reference to Mullah O and Mullah M is would be humorus but for the fact it is totally true.

m m amin Nov 29, 2015 06:50pm

@Ravi Chandran Your sympathy for the civil govt is understandable! You love weekkneed civil govt in Pakistan

Manan Nov 29, 2015 07:36pm

Stay safe man. Brilliant brilliant article. More power to you.

Frankenstein Nov 29, 2015 08:15pm

We have alienated Ghani ? Are u kidding me. He was the one who asked Pakistan to brong Talibans on table and then he said he dont want Pakistanis. The fact is Afghans are incompetent Talibans striked ar the heart of Northern Afghanistan a ayrong hold oh uzbeks who makes major part of Northern Alliance. a handful of Talibans took control of that city. Thats a shame for Afghanistan after eating billions of dollars all they can do is talk rubbish. The problem is Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have different approaches. Abdullah Abdullah is CEO of Afghanistan as its a corporation rather than a country

Sosing Nov 29, 2015 08:23pm

Kudos to Cyril Almeida and Dawn for articles like this. Plain speaking and incisive, no waffling or obfuscation. Bold and courageous writing, to be highly commended. Issues are solved by facing reality, not through denial. Authorities would do well to heed the lessons and messages in such articles.

sssj Nov 29, 2015 08:26pm

This guy is not very smart at analysing the geopolitical tinge. In the real world of AfPak there will be no peace until Ghani or any other puppet of US remains cosmetically installed.

Afghan History shows it has been the grave yard of empires and not necessarily with the help of Pakistani boys; if only the writer is had some idea about broader slice of time.

The real trouble is american presence in the region and just because our pay-cheque comes from Washington cannot ensure dominance over Taliban, who will continue the war of attrition, one year down the lane and we have not really been able to control the situation in FATA. In Afghanistan the Taliban have won the war and are in no mood for talks, The Americans are desperately trying to save face and have left us holding the baby which is not at all in our interest.

One day we will have to talk to all fractions of Taliban and only when American interference is removed things will settle down.

Raj patel Nov 29, 2015 08:26pm

@ m m amin no gov is week gov when it comes through election. Unfortunately Pakistani people elect one and go after army general. Pakistani people always have romance with army and wanted their civilian government should be under army. That is called dictatorship and not democracy.

Amaan Nov 29, 2015 08:39pm

Cyril! Well done! I fear for your safety now, God bless you and keep you safe

Agha Ata Nov 29, 2015 09:12pm

Is this just an information or a suggestion?

Last Word Nov 29, 2015 10:58pm

A most logical and apt analysis which cant be better than this. @Author Please stay safe.

eddied Nov 30, 2015 12:13am

@sssj when american influence leaves the area...The Taliban will win Afganistan then move on down to take Pakistan as they once did in Swat Valley...

haider Nov 30, 2015 06:59am

PM should take notice and make a committee to resolve this dilema

indialover Nov 30, 2015 07:20am

Superb article... Hats off to you

Mustafa R. Nov 30, 2015 12:03pm

'If peace was the real purpose and the only goal'

You are right, peace is not the only goal, dignity and justice are also required.