The Taliban will never surrender
Hamid Mir argues that Washington is anti-Taliban because the Taliban have
refused to do its bidding
http://www.thefridaytimes.com/news6a.htm Sonntag, 16. September 2001
Six years ago, Nusrat Javeed of The News and I were invited to dinner in a
Chinese restaurant by the then Interior Minister Maj Gen (Retd) Naseerullah Khan
Babar. Why are you writing against the Taliban? he asked us. Because the
Americans are supporting them, I replied.
Babar gave us a long
lecture about the Taliban but we were not ready to buy his theory. Finally, he
picked up his famous stick in his right hand and said, OK, you go to Kandahar
independently, talk to them, come back and then see me.
A few weeks later, I was in Kandhar and had a meeting with Mullah Muhammad Umar
Majahid. I asked him: Why is Robin Raphael (then the US Assistant Secretary of
State for South Asia) supporting you? In response, Umar inquired who is he?
The Taliban were clearly not aware of who was supporting them and who was
opposed to them outside Afghanistan. They knew only Pakistan. After coming back
from Kandhar, I met Babar and told him that the Americans had a three-point
agenda for the Taliban. One, they would like to use the Taleban against Iran.
Two, they would like to pressurise them to arrange shelter and training camps to
the rebels of Sinkiang in Afghanistan. And three, the Americans wanted to
construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan through Afghanistan. But
I told Babar that the Americans will not be able to achieve even a single
objective because the Taliban will not take dictation from them. This time,
Babar was not ready to believe me.
In October 1995, the California-based Unocal oil company signed a protocol with
the Turkmenistan government to explore the prospects of constructing an oil
pipeline to Pakistan through Afghan territory. When the Taliban captured Kabul,
the vice-president of Unocal, Christopher Taggart, confidently stated that we
regard it as very positive. He added that if the US followed Pakistans example
of cementing ties with the Taliban, this would open opportunities for them.
Robert Oakley, former US Ambassador in Pakistan, was in due course hired by
Unocal for lobbing its cause and was busy shuttling between Washington and
Benazir Bhutto was thrown out of power on November 6, 1996. I remember that a
few days after her sacking, she told me that the American Ambassador in
Islamabad, Thomas W. Simons, was not happy with her because the Taliban had
refused to oblige Unocal. On November 16, 1996, the US assistant secretary of
state Robin Raphel argued at a UN conference on Afghanistan in New York that the
Taliban were a completely indigenous movement. Raphel said that the Talibans
policies may reflect extremism but the best way to moderate them was to engage
them. She later went to Kandahar and had a meeting with top Taliban officials,
but the policy of engagement failed because the Taliban signed a memorandum of
understanding with Bridas, an Argentinian oil company, to develop the proposed
Much later, when the US$ 8 billion pipeline project had become a non-starter,
they flared up and created an issue out of Osama Bin Ladin. They now demanded
his extradition but the Taliban refused. This refusal lent credence to the
Taliban because common Pakistans now realised that the Taliban were an
I have met Mullah Umar many times. He is convinced that the Americans are not
interested in Osama Bin Ladin, that their real objective is to install a
government of their own choice in Kabul which will take control of all the road
links to Central Asia. The Americans clearly want to create problems not only
for Pakistan and China but also for Iran. Some time back, Osama bin Laden
revealed to me that once, when he decided to leave Afghanistan, he went to see
Mullah Umar and informed him about his decision. But the Taliban militia leader
refused to discharge him by saying Dont give us a bad name.
There are some people who criticise Islamabads Afghan policy. But is it not a
reality that Pakistan is Afghanistans only regional neighbour that has continued
a dialogue with all sides of the Afghan political divide? Irrespective of the
Northern Alliances public stance, its leadership has actively sought Pakistans
intervention to initiate an intra-Afghan dialogue. Nobody can deny the fact that
the Islamabad accord was signed by all the Afghan parties in 1993 and remains
testimony to Islamabads commitment to a genuine home-grown peace process in
Pakistan. It was under this accord that Sibghatullah Mujadidi became the
President of Afghanistan in Kabul for six months. In fact, when he showed some
hesitation in vacating the Presidentship for Burhanuddin Rabbani, it was
Pakistan that forced him to step down. Yet, when Rabbanis term was up, in
violation of the accord, he refused to step down with the encouragement of
Washington and Moscow. Therefore when Pakistans embassy in Kabul was attacked
and Rabbani refused to implement the Islamabad accord, Pakistan was forced to
support the Taliban.
There is pressure on Pakistan to withdraw its support for the Taliban. Some
people argue that if Pakistan expects the US to support its Kashmir stance, it
should not snub the US in terms of its requirements in Afghanistan. But the
question is: what can the US do for Pakistan in Kashmir? Nothing. Suppose
Pakistan were to withdraw its support for the Taliban, in how many weeks or
months would India vacate Kashmir?
The day the Taliban are dislodged from Kabul, American, Indian and Israeli
fighter planes will occupy all the bases close to Pakistans northern and western
borders. They will start their covert operations not only against Pakistan but
also against China and Iran. The Americans tried their best to convince the
Taliban to start a Jihad in Sinkiang through a Saudi NGO called Rabta
Alm-e-Islami, but the Taliban refused. Indeed, if today the Taliban were to
agree to be used against China, all of their problems would be solved. But they
are not opportunists. They have many faults and follies but they have become a
defence line for Pakistan and China.
The claim is also wrong that Pakistan is suffering because of the Taliban.
Pakistan faced sanctions in 1990 from the US but there were no Taliban at that
time. Now the US is forcing Pakistan to implement the UNs one-sded sanctions
against Afghanistan, just to create misunderstandings between the Taliban and
Pakistan. The UN wants to send monitors to implement its sanctions. And it wants
Pakistan to facilitate the monitors and arrange security for them. But the UN
should go and see the Pak-Afghan border which cannot be sealed. The monitors
must go to the tribal areas and see that people from both sides dont accept the
Durand line demarcated by the British government. They must listen to ordinary
Pakistanis who support the Taliban because they think that the real crime of the
Taliban is that they have refused to become puppets like Ahmed Shah Masood and
Burhanuddin Rabbani. Both are responsible for bomb blasts in Afghanistan. Now
Masood says that there has been a murder attempt on him in Northern Afghanistan
by suicide bombers. This is a message for all the countries supporting the
terrorism of the Northern Alliance to come to Masoods rescue.
The Taliban have proved that they are not weak, that they can get anywhere they
want. They have brought peace to 95% of Afghanistan after 15 years but so-called
civil society is not ready to recognize their contribution. There is womens
police in Kabul, girls schools are opening up in Kandahar, even a nursing school
is working in Heart but western funded NGOs are not ready to speak the truth.
No matter what the pressure, the Afghans, a proud nation, are not ready to
compromise. If the Americans want Osama to try and convict him then it is
through negotiations with Kabul that a satisfactory solution can be reached.
Otherwise, they may try again to browbeat the Taleban. But the Taliban will