What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Syed Saleem Shahzad managed to catch one of the Taliban's pre-2001 foreign ministers for a chat. The narrated summary of the interview may be interesting to read, even if some of the positions Mullah Abdul Jalil voices are known from the past.
Such is the claim that, should the Taliban come to power again, they will not threaten the outside world (unlike what happened before 9/11). Jalil may even be credibly honest on this, after all at one point he used to be the one chosen by his friends to be the face of the country - he may be genuinely more sensitive to necessary compromises. The problem is, and this is put to him by Saleem Shahzad as well, that some of Jalil's friends may think in a different way. In response, Jalil speaks critically about the late Mohammed Dadullah (who used to make threats to the West), and this entails a critical view of the Dadullahs overall - like Mansoor Dadullah who is in custody in Pakistan to my best knowledge. Mansoor Dadullah certainly used to threaten the world a lot. In 2007, soon after his brother's death, Mansoor Dadullah had a sucide-bomber-school graduation ceremony taped and made available to the Pakistani and the Western media, threatening a whole list of countries, including Germany.
Jalil is sending a less-than-consistant, yet definitely more moderate message, paraphrased into a summary by me here: "we don't want trouble in Pakistan (unlike the Pakistani Taliban), we don't want trouble in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, China or Iran specifically, and we don't want trouble in the world in general." Jalil admits that trying to avoid trouble even in Pakistan is quite problematic: they have to talk to "a lot of groups" to achieve something.
The most interesting bit might be this:
"The Taliban emerged from Kandahar, which has a special dynamic in Afghanistan, and they have never accepted foreign occupation. The Taliban still draws its military leaders from Kandahar, and look at the history of Kandahar ... when I say Kandahar I don't mean the present divisions, it means the entire regions of Helmand, Urzgan and Zabul ... it has always produced the best military leaders. "The Taliban are not a stand-alone entity. Ninety percent of the present resistance in Kandahar survives because of the masses. They provide shelter to us in their homes, feed us and provide money for us to go back and fight against the foreign forces, and they never mind if in the course of this they suffer casualties because of aerial bombardments.
Look, the conviction of the masses is the essential thing. The reason why there is not as strong a resistance in the north is that the people are not behind it. Certainly, people across Afghanistan are against the foreign occupation, but for a resistance [to succeed] it needs a special temperament, zeal and strength to face all sorts of hardships. Kandaharis have always shown this and that's why they are ahead of everybody in fighting against foreign troops."
That's an open acknowledgement of limited possibilities and objectives. Not everyone around Jalil may share this, but it might still be significant. Those next-year elections may produce some interesting politics, one feels. But the way the above statements are formulated does, to a degree, exaggerate how much Kandahar belongs to the Taliban, and in this way they may also be aimed at European publics. A further hint in that direction is Jalil's claim that contrary to what Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-i-Islami claimed, in fact the Taliban ambushed the fatal French paratrooper patrol in the Uzbeen valley on August 18.

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