Taliban ‘Largely a Spent Force’
Abdul Rahman Akhund has been battling US and Afghan government troops for three long, hard years. He misses raising his kids among the quiet pomegranate orchards he used to tend at home. With another frigid winter setting in, and a new US offensive being launched this week, this weary Taliban fighter says he’s ready to come in from the cold. “If the government will let us peacefully return to our villages and our children, we will come,” he says. “We are tired living on the run in these snowy mountains.” His fellow tribesman, Sarwar Akhund, goes one step further: Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and terror kingpin Osama bin Laden, he charges, tricked followers like him into believing they were fighting a holy war against infidels, “when really they just wanted to consolidate their own seats of power.” If allowed back into society, he pledges to “do whatever I can” to help kill or capture the fugitive leaders.
The two soldiers expressed views that intelligence circles across southern Afghanistan have been hearing for months. Many officials, military strategists, and diplomats here are increasingly optimistic that the Taliban are largely a spent force, made up in great parts by disillusioned, worn out foot soldiers like the Akhund tribesmen.
That’s why President Hamid Karzai plans a general amnesty for Taliban rank and file as one of his first major initiatives since winning national elections in October and being inaugurated last week. Mr. Karzai and his American backers hope the move will not only bring peace to great swaths of Afghanistan, but may even lead to the seizure of the high-value terror targets US troops are hunting across the country’s south and east.
This would seem to belie the claim, made by Michael Scheuer and others, that our war in Iraq caused us to take our eye off the ball in Afghanistan. While I’m generally skeptical of “amnesty” for former terrorists, I wouldn’t necessarily oppose a system that allowed the rank and file to surrender without fear of prosecution.