Vote Taliban in 2010?

Photo by flickr user The U.S. Army under a Creative Commons license

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Instead of fighting the Taliban, why not encourage them to run for office? Tell them to form their own political party, and they could officially govern many of the local Pashtun areas already under their control. Think of it: “Vote Taliban in 2010.”

That’s one of the proposed solutions offered in a Financial Times op-ed on Tuesday with some fresh ideas on how the West can best exit Afghanistan. In a bloody conflict where tangible solutions are as rare as authentic election ballots, the op-ed’s authors—Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s former ambassador in Washington, and Anatol Lieven, a professor at King’s College London—offer Western leaders some food for thought in avoiding a disastrous exit, and a framework for withdrawal that hasn’t figured much into US debates on the issue.

Chief among their arguments is the need for no less than a complete decentralization of Afghanistan’s government, “a move from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government.” This makes sense, given how little Kabul’s influence extends beyond its limits. In this context, the Taliban could become a political party that would rule in local Pashtun areas and share power with Kabul—that is, on the condition that they “pledge not to permit sanctuaries for terrorism in areas it may dominate.” The need for this pledge, the authors continue, is that signs that “the Taliban’s alliance with al Qaeda may be fraying need to be seriously tested.” (On Sunday, Hakimullah Mehsud, new leader of the Pakistani Taliban, called his group’s relationship to al Qaeda one of “love and affection.”)

The notion of legitimizing the Taliban raises plenty of suspicions and questions. How could the US take the Taliban at its word? And who’s to say Talib governance over Pashtun villages would look any different if the Taliban were a political party? Would they still threaten to maim and kill people who vote? Would they continue to ruthlessly repress Afghan women?

More importantly, Lodhi and Lieven say the West needs to talk to the Taliban—that opening negotiations with the enemy, if possible, is one of the few ways to achieve a less-than-disastrous denouement to the Afghan war. If negotiations commence, a ceasefire could be agreed upon, perhaps in exchange for a phased withdrawal by occupying forces.

The authors discuss a few more necessary steps for Western forces. I highly recommend reading their argument, and whether or not you agree, they are at least putting forth some substantive ideas for a debacle in dire need of them.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate