Peace talks with the Taliban take place against the backdrop of modernization in Afghanistan »


Young males combat wars and previous males dealer peace.

I do know this to be true. But bile rises in the throat over the presence of Afghanistan’s worst warlords and intractable Taliban militants at the long-awaited peace talks with the Afghan authorities’s negotiating crew in Qatar, scheduled to start on Saturday.

Among the rogue’s gallery of murderers in Doha, the place the Taliban maintains a “political” workplace: hardliners Abdul Rasool Sayyaf, former Afghanistan presidential candidate, who had a violent terrorist group named in his honour, and the monstrous Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former prime minister, former CIA-back guerrilla chief against the Soviet, former exile, former UN-listed terrorist, referred to as the Butcher of Kabul, who rained down rockets indiscriminately on the capital throughout a civil warfare that killed an estimated 50,000 individuals, most of them civilians, between 1992 and 1996.

Hekmatyar solely got here out of hiding in 2016, although he’d continued his factional plotting as chief of the fanatical Hezb-i-Islami militant group, endlessly arranging and breaking alliances.

Now right here he sits, nonetheless loathed by Afghans, however invested with diplomatic standing in the authorities’s reconciliation council, figuring out the nation’s destiny.

Hekmatyar can out-Taliban the Taliban for viciousness, bloodthirst and woman-hating.

Already he’s rejected any females serving as chief justices in Afghanistan, regardless of credentials, whereas the Taliban come out wanting as if they’re moderates, claiming that, whereas a girl may by no means change into president, they might permit females to be judges.

In a nation the place girls are nonetheless scarcely publicly seen, nonetheless shrouded in burqas, nonetheless the property of male relations — husband, father, brother — and nonetheless subjected to ghastly culturally-condoned violence, Afghanistan’s Parliament has to date been unable to ratify a Violence Against Women invoice, as a result of, as intrepid Associated Press reporter Kathy Gannon (initially from Timmins, Ont.) writes, “it is feared that hard-line lawmakers would defeat any such legislation.’’

Remember when the whole world claimed to stand with Afghanistan’s enslaved women? When a U.S.-led invasion toppled the cruel Taliban regime and the International Security Assistance Force — Canada a muscular troop contributor to it — stayed on to fight, to protect, to stabilize, so that the central government wouldn’t be overrun as the Taliban reconstituted, and, yes, so that schools could be built and girls could attend.

All for bloody nothing.

The government’s negotiating squad does include women. One wonders how the Taliban side will even speak to them. Although, it should be noted, they’ve never had trouble talking to female journalists. They put their misogyny aside for that.

(I am reminded of the late and fearless Italian journalist, Oriana Fallaci who, upon scoring an interview with Ayatollah Khomeini, in the wake of the Iranian Revolution, arrived at his residence in Qum, barefoot and wrapped in a chador, as instructed. After bombarding him with questions, on everything from the hideous treatment of Iran’s Kurdish minority, to summary executions, to the question of how women can swim in a chador — she ripped off the garment, “this stupid, medieval rag,” she spit out, whereupon the aghast Khomeini promptly left the room. Where have all the gutsy journalists gone?)

The “intra-Afghan’’ negotiations, brokered by U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Washington, the provisional deal signed in February, have wound their way tortuously to Doha, held up by the Taliban’s insistence on the release of a half dozen remaining Taliban prisoners. Upwards of 5,000 Taliban prisoners had already been freed as of August.

The U.S. just wants out, after 19 wearying years of combat and increasing Taliban gains. Thousands of American troops have begun withdrawing. And the Taliban, which has always played the long game, have nothing to lose because, while Ashraf Ghani may be the president of Afghanistan, the Taliban are calling the shots.

The aim in Doha is to end the protracted war, bring the remaining American troops home, resolve the issue of multiple militias that still control vast swaths of the country — some lare loyal to the central government, some not — and contrive a road map for a post-war society in Afghanistan.

As if.

Neither side has yet agreed to a ceasefire.

Afghanistan remains consumed with violent conflict.

And working out an alleged power-sharing agreement between the government and the Taliban is utter folly. Though the Taliban says it has no wish to monopolize power, that is almost comically unbelievable.

Has the world learned nothing about the intrinsic untrustworthiness of the Taliban?

Yet the troop withdrawal, by both American and NATO forces, pivoted on a commitment by the Taliban to fight against other militant groups, most specifically the Islamic State group, and to ensure that Afghanistan won’t be used as a staging ground for attacks on the U.S. or its allies.

Which is where, you may recall, the world came in … following the 9/11 attacks in 2001 against America that were concocted by Osama bin Laden while Al Qaeda found unmolested sanctuary in Afghanistan.

Now, these peace deal negotiations are launching one day after the 9/11 anniversary, which was hardly marked in ceremonies at the Sept. 11 memorial in New York City — to a large extent because America is reeling from the harrowing losses of another tragedy, the global coronavirus, which is approaching 200,000 deaths in the U.S.



Except it’s not just that.

It’s because, in a post-9/11 world, those horrific attacks that brought down the World Trade Centre and struck the Pentagon are receding in memory.

A generation has been born that doesn’t remember, that isn’t haunted by, the ghost of those looming twin towers buckling and collapsing, a mushroom cloud of ash covering the city.

It began in Afghanistan.

It began with the Taliban’s hospitality towards Al Qaeda.

Yet here we are, bending over backwards to accommodate the Taliban, because this is how realpolitik works … forging peace out of the ashes.

I’ve been to Afghanistan nine times, for two- and three-month stretches, sometimes embedded with troops, sometimes as a “unilateral,” touring solely with a fixer.

I understand how desperately Afghans yearn for peace.

But the Taliban, as a political entity, which they now profess to be, are rooted in a previous of theocratic ruthlessness and barbarity.

Anyone who believes they’ll change their stripes is dreaming.

What has modified spectacularly, nevertheless, is the technological modernization of Afghanistan. It’s nonetheless a rustic of ruins and infrastructure shabbiness, of course. But even mountain shepherds now have cellphones. Afghans are not ignorant of the exterior world; they’ll watch it on TV. Mud homes in tiny villages are studded with satellite tv for pc dishes. Unless the emboldened Taliban determine to hurl these off rooftops as they as soon as did tv units … and homosexuals.

What Afghans can see, with their very own eyes, is a world of freedoms and equality and an existence that doesn’t need to be merely endured, that may be molded round an Islamic religion central to their lives with out sacrificing what’s most treasured to them.

The world can’t save Afghanistan. And the Taliban can’t brutalize Afghanistan anew both by attempting once more to drag it again into the seventh Century.

It’s as much as Afghans now to steer their destiny, not these previous males with their Old Testament faces sitting round a negotiation desk.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist overlaying sports activities and present affairs for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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