Insurgent Resurgant

For the last few months there have been statements from the Karzai administration in Afghanistan that there is a willingness to engage in peace talks with opposition groups. These groups are often referred to as ‘the Taliban’ by the American news media. Things are not so simple. Groups which engage in violence against both American and chthonic troops and infrastructure in Afghanistan include:

-Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami, under Ilyas Kashmiri (reported dead 2011) and others

-The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), under Abu Usman

-The Haqqani network, under Jalaluddin (pere) and Sirajuddin (fils)

-Lashkar-e-Taiba, under Hafiz Muhammed Saeed

-Lashkar-e-Islam, under Mangal Bagh

-The Abdullah Azzam Shaheed Brigades

-Jaish-e-Mohammed, under Maulana Masood Azhar

-The East Turkestan Islamic Movement, under Abdul Haq (d. 2010)  and others

-Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistani

-Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, under Maulana Fazlullah and others

-Islamic Jihad Union

-Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, under

-Fazle-ur-Rahman Khalil

-al’Qaeda, under Usama bin Laden (d. 2011) and Ayman al’Zawahiri

-the Taliban, under Mullah Muhammed Omar and others

-Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, under Hakimullah Mehsud (possibly killed 2012)

-Hezb-e Islami, under Maulawi Khalis (d. 2004) and now Haji Din Mohammed

 -Hezb-e-Islami, under Gulbuddin Hekmatyar

Several of these groups are allied with each other. Several are allied against each other. Some share leadership. Some do not even share a language. Some are focused solely on Afghanistan. Some operate in several countries. Some are international terrorist organizations which seek to target civilians in predominately non-Muslim countries. Some are paramilitary forces who engage in warfare that is hardly even asymmetric.

A list of members of the administration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) would include a number of these names. Some of the names on this list would also be found in the current Karzai administration. Several of the other Islamic groups which fought against the Soviets (Sayyaf, Dostum) are now part of the Karzai administration. Hamid Karzai himself was once a supporter of the Taliban; he would have been named the organization’s representative to the United Nations if the Taliban’s government had received UN recognition.

I see in the news today (Reuters: ) that Karzai has engaged in indirect peace talks with members of the group controlled by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. This group was the largest and best-supplied anti-Soviet group during the 1980s. It was the particular favorite of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), through which most Pakistani and American aid was given to the mujaheddin. Hekmatyar’s stalemate against Ahmed Shah Massoud (later to be called the first commander of the ‘Northern Alliance’) was what allowed the Taliban to rise; ISI’s pragmatism caused them to switch support from Hekmatyar to the Taliban, thus allowing the easy domination of the majority of Afghanistan by that group.

After the rise of the Taliban in the mid-1990s, Hekmatyar fled to Iran. In 2002, as a result of American pressure, he was expelled from Teheran and most likely took up residence in Pakistan. His ties with the ISI are presumed to remain deep. Since 2008 he has become one of the most powerful leaders of armed opposition to the current Afghan state. He has several times attempted to assassinate Hamid Karzai and has claimed responsibility for the deaths of many Coalition and Afghani soldiers.

Despite this, he is considered one of the more moderate opposition leaders. He was the first opposition group willing to engage in direct peace talks with the Karzai administration. Similar overtures made to the Haqqanis (and other leaders of the Emirate of Waziristan) have been roundly rejected.

The news stories which reported this budding detente referred to Hekmatyar as ‘the leader of an insurgent faction.’ This is rather new language to refer to what was recently called an ‘insurgent group,’ and earlier a ‘terrorist cell.’ A ‘group’ is not a legitimate force, where a ‘faction’ is. A faction is part of the political process. A faction might have a legitimate position in a governing body.

This evolution of language has been essentially parabolic since the creation of the first Islamist groups in Afghanistan in the late 1970s:

For truly, one man’s ‘radical Islamist terrorist network’ is another man’s ‘political party’ – just as surely as one man’s mujaheddin is another man’s warlord… is another man’s Kabul politician.

Perhaps this shift in nomenclature is being used to allow certain groups of ‘terrorists’ to enter into democratic (or at least nonviolent) Afghani politics. Perhaps, indeed, the future of Afghanistan is as a Islamic emirate – democratically elected, internationally recognized, and tolerated by America under the monitored guarantee that it not encourage international terrorism which might affect our interests.


~ by davekov on 23 January 2012.

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