The world may rue the ascension of Barack Obama as the US President, for his soft approach to terror is be giving a fillip to jehadis. A few days ago, he expressed desire to reach ?out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists.? Now comes the news of efforts being made to engage the Taliban.
Everything that Obama says or does is calibrated to please Leftists and liberals, the folks who clamor for the acceptability of the Taliban and other Islamists in the civilized world. His jihad-appeasement is euphemistically called ?nuanced? by his cheerleaders like Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria.
But what does actually Obama do: he orders the closure of Guantanamo, where vicious jehadis were kept by the George Bush administration. Also notice the language he uses: the ?people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists??as if the thugs who run amok in Swat, the badlands of Pakistan-Afghanistan border, and other places are decent chaps who are maligned by Western ?racists? and ?communal? Hindus. This is the apogee of sophistry.
The consequences are for all of us to see. Taliban leader Mullah Omar, whom Bush wanted to bring to justice, is back in business?and he has gained legitimacy in the process. Omar has apparently given his approval for talks aimed at ending the war in Afghanistan and has allowed his representatives to attend Saudi-sponsored peace negotiations, according to a report in the Sunday Times, London.
The report also said that some of the preliminary talks took place in Delhi. Further, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, the Saudi intelligence chief, visited Islamabad, Delhi and Kabul in January to talk to both sides. ?Mullah Omar has given the green light to talks,? said one of the mediators, Abdullah Anas. Of Algerian origin, Anas is a former friend of Osama bin Laden. He now lives in London and is said to have become moderate.
That the Taliban are regaining legitimacy became evident last September when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia hosted a reception at Mecca celebrating Eid to bring together some of the warring sides. The guests included Mullah Muhammad Ghaus, a former Taliban foreign minister, and Abdel Hakim Mujahed, a former Taliban representative at the UN. Qayum Karzai was among the representatives of the Afghan government. Qayum is the brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai; the latter, by the way, has welcomed Obama'smove.
Needless to say, the policy shift that US President Barack Obama intends to effect in the superpower'srelations vis-?-vis Taliban does not augur well for Afghanistan and the South Asian region. In an interview with The New York Times (March 8), he said, ?If you talk to General (David) Petraeus (who was chief commander of US forces in Iraq), I think he would argue that part of the success in Iraq involved reaching out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists, but who were willing to work with us because they had been completely alienated by the tactics of al-Qaeda in Iraq.?
In short, what he said was that the US should reach ?out to people that we would consider to be Islamic fundamentalists.? Such people have been called ?the moderate sections of the Taliban? or ?good Taliban? in the media. But, Mr President, the problem is that the ?good Taliban? are a contradiction in terms; it is like finding a Gandhian mass-murderer or a decent pedophile. The Taliban are the most vicious killers on earth; in order to take impose barbarity, misogyny and a rigid medieval system, they go to any lengths. The Taliban are unconscionable. The Taliban are Taliban, period.
Obama cites the reasons of geopolitics to buttress his viewpoint. ?You have a less governed region (in Afghanistan), a history of fierce independence among tribes. Those tribes are multiple and sometimes operate at cross purposes,? Obama said. All these are well-known facts. But a bid to have truck with ?good? Taliban is fraught with danger.
Quite apart from the fact that there is no such thing as ?good? Taliban, an engagement with some of them would bestow a veneer of respectability on the ruthless ruffians and let them augment their power and influence.
The respectability, the resultant legitimacy, and more power will help them spread their baneful influence in not only Afghanistan and Pakistan but in the entire region of South Asia. For instance, the recent compromise between Islamabad and the Taliban in the Swat Valley has gone entirely in favor of the latter. Earlier, when the US engaged Islamists in the 1970s and the 1980s to drive out the Soviets, the ideological predecessors of the Taliban emerged stronger; they not only ended up capturing Kabul but also conspired to attack the US itself on September 11, 2001. In fact, India has suffered more than the US by the strengthening of Islamists in the region. Obama'sdecision to engage the Taliban seems to be the product and function of his liberal worldview which seeks to engage jehadis.
It is astonishing that the US, with its stupendous military might, political clout and technological prowess, has to engage the Taliban. Why isn'tit possible to starve the Taliban of funds? Where do get their arms from? Why cannot the arms suppliers to them be penalised? Why cannot Saudi Arabia, with which the US enjoys a special relationship, be influenced or goaded to stop the financing of jehadis in Pakistan and Afghanistan? Is there a link between the people who oppose tough action against jehadis and the finances that are made available to terror networks?
There are a million unanswered questions, each of which makes life uncertain in this part of the world. The only certainty is the increasing influence of jehadis in and around India.
(The author works with The Political and Business Daily.)