How ironic, of all people in the world, Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary defined the goal of terrorism succinctly. Lenin said: “the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize.” A century has unfolded since Lenin’s practical conclusion. In modern era, America witnessed the act of domestic terrorism by Timothy McVeigh, a United States Army veteran also known as the Oklahoma City Bomber, who sympathized with militia movement and grew tired of his federal government. McVeigh killed 168 innocent civilians, including women and children, and injured 450; his action was the deadliest act of terrorism within the United States prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks.
When September 11 occurred, Osama Bin Laden became the overnight poster child of terrorism. With Bin Laden now serving as organic fish food at the bottom of the Indian Ocean, his co-conspirators, the Taliban continuously terrorize freedom. The Taliban are the perfect face of the modern terrorism in all of its glorious pathology. Why anyone takes them seriously is utterly beyond me. And yet for some, including Afghanistan’s leader, their bogus moral preening continues to resonate.
While Afghanistan’s president and his family are openly advocating for the Taliban to be recognized as a legitimate political movement, the Taliban’s actions clearly classify them as a terrorist organization which desperately preys on vulnerable minds. Boys as young as 12-years-old are recruited to become suicide bombers under the false pretense of promises which will never be delivered. And in turn, the Taliban boast about using these children as human bombs to slaughter civilians in universities and hospitals across Afghanistan.
When the Pakistan-backed Taliban regime collapsed in 2001, Afghanistan’s doors were open to all Afghans, regardless of their ethnicity or political affiliation. Even those who served during the dark days of the Afghan Communist era seized this opportunity and reintegrated themselves to help in rebuilding Afghanistan. The Taliban, however, resorted to terrorism to appease their Pakistani ISI masters to incessantly inflict terror on Afghans.
Although there is no broadly accepted definition for terrorism, a terrorist group such as the Taliban commonly is defined as a set of individuals belonging to a non-state entity that uses terrorism to achieve their goal. In the Taliban’s case, their objective is for the United States to leave Afghanistan, so Pakistan ISI can conveniently move back in, as in the late-nineties. While most terrorist groups are political by nature, their aim is to target civilians as the Taliban demonstrate this on daily basis.
Unfortunately, Afghan president’s 10 infelicitous years at the helm has failed to help him to grasp the basic notion that even terrorist groups that have ended, did so by pursuing their goals through politics. There is no need to rebrand them and fabricate an identity that genuinely doesn’t fit and is seriously incongruous with Taliban’s character. Today, Taliban’s ideological motivation, to kill Americans because they are Christian, no longer resonates with Afghans, unless Mr. Karzai stokes Afghans sentiment against the United States and appeal to their emotional intelligence.
Unlike Afghanistan’s president, the Taliban do understand that their goal of knocking America out of Afghanistan and the region is extremely unattainable and the only way they could envisage a political settlement and by some miracles find a voice in Afghan society after fifteen years of continuous atrocities, is to redefine their objective narrowly.
For a hypothetical moment, suppose, tomorrow the Taliban open up a political office in Afghanistan. One would highly doubt that Afghans will voluntarily join their political party as Taliban’s past track record is a clear indication of a savage cult that misunderstands Islam and has no respect for Afghan cultural values. No Afghan would want to be the subject of public flogging like livestock in exchange for a political discourse.
But the senseless Afghan war must end. If Mr. Karzai is truly genuine about bringing a well-deserved peace to Afghanistan, he must be genuine about the peace process. First, Mr. Karzai must discern between Afghanistan’s foes and friends. He must use the tools of democracy afforded to him at the sacrifice of the international community and the Afghan people, to delegitimize terrorist actions. For example: the Afghan Parliament must be encouraged to pass a law that forbids any Afghans to take arms against the Constitution of Afghanistan, punishable by death, with a final amnesty to all Taliban terrorist before the law is ratified. This will demonstrate to the Afghan people that Karzai’s government is a serious institution and true custodian of the Afghan Constitution.
Second, the Afghan government must work hard to reform mosques that have historically been used as a tipping point for major political upheavals. Whether it has been the Iranian regime or Pakistan ISI – they have easily manipulated these venues to propagate against reform and the progressive nature of a democratic society.
Third, the Afghan opposition leaders also have a stake in shaping the course of Afghanistan’s future. They must demonstrate to Afghans that individuals with Afghan blood on their hands will no longer be part of a new chapter. Allowing these nefarious characters to participate in political dialogue will afford the Taliban an opening to delegitimize their genuine cause. The opposition must also bring into their ranks many tribal elders and youth organizations that counter Taliban terrorist ideology. The new generation of Afghans, especially students who are introduced to the benefits of education are fundamentally opposing the Taliban mindset and their Pakistani-innovated Islamic values.
Wahid Monawar is former Permanent Representative of Afghanistan to the United Nations in Vienna, Austria. He is currently an associate of Zurich Partners. You can follow him on Twitter @Afghanpolicy.