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  March 5, 2009

The Taliban riddle

Pepe Escobar: Everybody is making a mess out of the AfPak theatre, including Washington
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In the first part of this report Pepe Escobar examines how the Obama administration is fed up with corrupt, inefficient Afghan President Hamid Karzai. And how the Obama administration is also fed up with his neighbor, corrupt Pakistani President Asif Zardari, who keeps making deals with the Taliban. To make matters worse, Pakistani Taliban groups have now formed an alliance to better fight the Americans. And to top it all "Taliban" means a lot of groups with different agendas. What remains constant is Washington's strategy to talk only to "good" Taliban.


The Taliban riddle

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST, TRNN: Just like Iraqis, Afghan Pashtuns can identify a surge when they see one. A member of the Afghan parliament in Kabul sums it all up when it comes to President Obama's Afghan war. She says, and I quote, "Send us 30,000 scholars instead or 30,000 engineers, but don't send more troops. It will just bring more violence." If Afghan President (they call him the mayor of Kabul) Hamid Karzai, the sartorially impeccable US puppet, if he had any balls, he would say the same thing. Forget about it. Corrupt to the core and linked to the drug business via his brother Ahmad Wali, the neoliberal realists of Obama's foreign policy team are fed up with Karzai, and they want another puppet. Elections are set for August. Karzai wants them next month. Afghans, at least, are not falling for it.

Courtesy: Al Jazeera English

FAROUK MIRRANAY, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: We will bring the pressure to Mr. Karzai to take his announcement back.

ESCOBAR: Then there's the puppet across the border, the immensely corrupt Asif Zardari, Benazir Bhutto's widower. He's now more unpopular than Bush in his heyday—19 percent approval rate—mostly because he's a US drone that allows foreign missiles and special forces to kill Pashtun peasants who happen to be Pakistani citizens. Zardari's strategy is to make deals with the Taliban—very good deals. He made a deal with Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban. He made a deal with the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, the so-called TNSM, which led to the release of its leader, Sufi Muhammad. On February 16, the government of the North-West Frontier Province, the NWFP, they signed a Swat peace deal. This means that the TNSM will enforce sharia law in the valley and will not attack the Pakistani government. So this is the model for all the tribal areas as well. Last week, the Taliban and the Pakistani government in Bajaur province, they declared a truce, and that may lead to yet another peace deal. And now three key Taliban factions—the Mehsud group, the Gul Bahadur group, and Mullah Nazir group, they declared they were forming an alliance in Waziristan. This means a stronger, more unified Pakistani Taliban fighting not Zardari and the Pakistani feudalistic power elite, but NATO, the Americans, and the war on terror. Now, what do CENTCOM commander General David Petreaus and Pentagon supremo Robert Gates, what do they want? Well, they want to talk to the good Taliban. Late last year, a group of Afghan diplomats plus Karzai's brother Ahmad Wali—you know the guy, the drug-kingpin guy—they finally talked to the Taliban with mediation by Saudi Arabia. This means US approval. The Petraeus-Gates strategy now under Obama is to shower US dollar bills on any Taliban commander that wants to make a deal with NATO. Zardari's doing the same thing Petraeus-Gates want to do, but much, much faster. "Taliban" is a very elastic term. It applies to all these people: number one, the historic Taliban led by Mullah Omar, now based in Quetta in Balochistan—Pakistan territory; number two, the Hezb-e-Islami Islamic party of former Afghan prime minister and super-warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; number three, the group of famous jihad commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, based in Waziristan—Pakistan tribal areas. Then there are at least three Pakistani Taliban groups: Mehsud, Gul Bahadur, and TNSM. And, finally, any group of Pashtun peasants who hate foreign occupation—that's about everybody in the Pashtun tribal areas—who had their family killed by the Americans or by the Pakistani government troops or lost their poppy crops, which means their livelihood. All these on the Afghan side, there are no more than 15,000 people, according to the Afghan minister of interior, but they're active in 17 Afghan provinces. Now, compared to the more than 60,000 US and NATO troops, not to mention the 17,000 in Obama's surge, how to solve this riddle? For the key to the riddle, watch Part 2 of this report.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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