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Rout of the Taliban

Rout of the Taliban

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: November 14, 2001

A RAGTAG ARMY of radical Islamic students, who seized control of most of Afghanistan five years ago and set in motion an immensely harmful chain reaction in the volatile regions of Central and South Asia, is on the run. Considering all the chest thumping and bravura that characterised the early reaction of the regime in Kabul to the U.S.-led bombing campaign, the collapse of the Taliban has been surprisingly rapid. Its flight from Kabul marks the beginning of the end of the fiercely motivated outfit and should be welcome news to neighbours like India and Russia which had suffered the debilitating poison that Talibanisation brought to parts of their countries. But it may be not yet celebration time in Kabul. The global forces that have hastened the departure of the Taliban now face the even more formidable and equally urgent task of bringing about political reconciliation among the different ethnic factions that make up the mountain country. The absence of a proper power-sharing arrangement and a resulting political vacuum can push the country back to civil war. It is the responsibility of the international community, led by the United Nations, to ensure an orderly transition to peace and stability after three decades of war. Economic reconstruction may pose fewer problems.

The U.N.'s aid agencies are ready and prepared for a massive humanitarian operation to bring succour to the dispossessed and deprived population just in time before the onset of winter. Economic aid is also said to be in the pipeline, ready to start flowing in if and when a political arrangement is worked out. This is the crucial question now, with two months of hectic diplomatic activity failing to reconcile the conflicting interests of the different factions and the geostrategic objectives of their sponsors. Of the forces that propped up and sustained the Taliban from the early days, Pakistan is the only country that finds it impossible to sever its ties, thanks to enormous domestic pressures that derive from religious, ethnic and sectarian links. Washington, after courting the Taliban with the aim of securing a route to the oil and gas wealth of Central Asia, joined the opposition when Osama bin Laden struck on September 11. All nations agree that the Pashtuns, who form the majority and from whom the Taliban raised its army, must be properly represented. India's support for the secular moderate forces represented by the Northern Alliance is known. For peace and stability in Afghanistan to endure, whatever arrangements are arrived at must be underwritten by the U.N., and supported by a multinational force, with the neighbours respecting its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In the immediate term, the fall of Kabul can solve one major problem for the U.S. and its Islamic allies by facilitating an early pause and even a termination of the bombing campaign ahead of the holy month of Ramadan. Washington's military strategy has partially succeeded even as its larger objective of bringing Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda to justice remains. In the longer term, the global community must address the root causes - social, economic, political, religious - that made it possible for such a radical outfit to surface at all in the 21st century. For, though the Taliban may soon become a spent force, the radicalism it espoused and exported still has wide popular support in Arab countries. It is no longer a question of who wields political influence in Kabul or who gets first to the oil and gas in Central Asia. If a conflagration is to be averted, if unwelcome fallouts in the region are to be forestalled, all countries must join the effort to address the root causes.
 


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