Monday, September 22, 2008

Taliban seen as 'legitimate resistance'

Jean MacKenzie is a journalist with plenty of experience in Afghanistan. In fact, she has for several years been helping train Afghan journalists working in English with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. The Afghans she has worked with, through their experiences and contacts, have provided the IWPR with rare and important glimpses of Afghanistan, while MacKenzie herself has also been proactive in getting out into the countryside and other out-of-the-way places. In short, she is well-placed to have her finger on the pulse of Afghan society.

In a recent editorial, MacKenzie relays her rather surprizing assessment of the opinion of Kabul's modern, progressive elite:

Things have reached a point where Kabul’s chattering classes have begun to murmur among themselves that the Taleban should not be regarded as an insurgency, but rather a legitimate resistance force. And this is from the progressive, Soviet-educated academics and engineers who make up the backbone of the intellectual elite. Picture the debate in the teahouses of Kandahar, where the bearded, turbaned patrons may have just lost a family member to a foreign air strike.
She goes on:
This is not to say that troops should be withdrawn altogether. At present, it is only the radical fringe and the insurgents, who support this idea. Those of us who live in the real world understand all too well what would happen were the international presence to disappear. It would not be long before Afghanistan would be once again engulfed in civil war, with long-simmering ethnic tensions, historical grievances and political rivalries unleashed... (link)
MacKenzie's assertion here is interesting. According to her, the continued NATO/US occupation is legitimized by the fact that, should their troops be withdrawn, a civil war would result. During the 1980's, Soviet spokespersons used precisely the same formulation in an attempt to justify their continued occupation of Afghanistan. No one bought the Russians' line then. Why are we expected to buy this excuse now?

Further, when MacKenzie claims that "only the radical fringe and the insurgents" support a pull-out of foreign troops, she seems out of touch with recent reporting on public sentiment. Not only has the Senlis Council reported on their poll which found "more than six out ten of those interviewed in Afghanistan said that the foreign troops should leave," but Sakhi Muneer, editor-in-chief of an Afghan government-run newspaper: "Most of the people now would be happy if they [foreign troops] left the country. They think the actions of the foreign forces are causing the violence to rise."

Anand Gopal, correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor relates what is by now an increasingly common conclusion:
"We are poor farmers. We had absolutely no opinion about America five years ago," says Sherafadeen Sadozay, who lost three children and his wife to an aerial attack in the Urozgan Province. "But now we don't think America is here to help us. If the Taliban will bring peace, we will support them." (link)

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