Moderate Taliban an Oxymoron?
In my New Atlanticist piece “Who Are the ‘Moderate’ Taliban?,” I round up the reactions to President Obama’s weekend promise to “reach out to moderate elements of the Taliban” and note that they’re almost uniformly negative.
On the surface, “moderate Taliban” sounds as nonsensical are “nonviolent terrorist” or “tolerant Nazi.”
In general terms, any group that calls itself “Taliban” is identifying itself as against the government in Kabul, the U.S., and U.S. allies. Our job is to understand which groups are truly dangerous, which are irreconcilable with our goals for Afghanistan–and which can be fractured or persuaded to rejoin the Afghan polity. We can’t fight them all, and we can’t negotiate with them all. Dropping the term “Taliban” and referring to specific groups instead would be a good way to start understanding who is really causing problems.
One hopes — indeed, presumes — this is what Obama was getting at. If so, he’s on the right track.