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Taliban leader could be a new Afghan President

Afghanistan.ru - 31.5.2007
Andrei Serenko (Photo: afghanistan.ru)

Taliban leader could be a new Afghan PresidentBy Andrei Serenko, Russian political scientist.

A Taliban leader could be a new Afghan President in two years. This suggestion seems fantastic only at the first glance. As a matter of fact, political developments in Afghanistan press relentlessly Kabul and its western partners so that Taliban started its political transformation at the earliest and integrated the movement of uncompromising opposition (and Pushtu elite backing it) into the country's current ruling and political system. It is expected that such a transformation will solve several strategic tasks simultaneously.
  • inflict a military defeat on Taliban, rout the main militant groups of the uncompromising opposition, destroy rear structures of the Taliban movement along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan,
  • deepening contradictions in Taliban, split in the uncompromising Islamic opposition, prompting its field commanders and political leaders who are ready to hold negotiations with Kabul to crossover,
  • physical elimination of the Taliban's current military and political leaders ("Fierce Mullahs"), consequently, creating conditions for the appearance of new leaders of Taliban,
  • integration into Afghanistan's official political system set up by the veterans of Pansher Valley and Pushtu elite (the interests of which are being now represented basically by Taliban), strengthening the presence of Pushtus in ruling bodies and the government of Afghanistan,
  • working out social and economic reconstruction programmes for Pushtunistan (region along the both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border)(with relevant financing and possibly, together with Pakistan) and realizing them,
  • declaring amnesty to the Taliban militants and commanders who represent Afghanistan's title-nationalities but foreign mercenaries, creating conditions for recruiting national Taliban militants to serve the Afghan army and law enforcement structures (as the Russian authorities did with Chechen militants), Creating conditions for the establishment of a political alliance between the Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Taliban commanders and representatives of Pushtu elite.
A potential opportunity for moderate Taliban and Pushtu leaders to nominate their candidate as the successor of Hamid Karzai at the 2009 presidential election could be an important opportunity for the establishment of a coalition involving Taliban-Pushtu block and official Kabul.

According to experts, the Afghan government headed by President Hamid Karzai is ready to hold serious talks with the Taliban movement. For one, this is confirmed by recent debate at the senate about television broadcasting (the authorities were recommended to remove foreign films that irritate radicals from air)and the replacement of the term "moderate Taliban leaders" in official speeches by Afghan bureaucrats and MPs with the term Afghan Taliban leaders.

The preparations for holding real talks on conditions for cooperation with moderate Afghan Taliban leaders set the task of establishing a political organization (coalition) before President Hamid Karzai and consequently, the Taliban leaders who concluded an agreement with Kabul could resume political activity legally in the country. In short, this means constructive Taliban leaders acquire the status of a political party in Afghanistan's current governing system.

According to our opinion, there are three ways to solve the issue.
  • The establishment of a political party by constructive Taliban leaders without the presence of "non-Taliban leaders" in it,
  • The formation of a coalition, political party involving constructive Taliban leaders and other radical Islamic leaders (for example: Gulbeddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasul Saiyaf),
  • The foundation of Taliban-President Party, an alliance of constructive Taliban leaders and the supporters of President Karzai.
The third option is preferable for the Afghan President. It not only restricts political independence of constructive Taliban leaders and prevents various radical politicians from uniting into a special party structure but also gives an opportunity to Hamid Karzai to speak on behalf of moderate part of Taliban that turned into one of his political piers in Afghanistan.

Latest reports say that President Karzai plans to initiate the foundation of the Republican Party of Afghanistan, RPA. The head of the Afganistan.ru information portal, Omar Nessar, says: "Judging by the list of names that should be included in the party's ruling body, this is not a party of radical Islamic, at least for the moment". Among the suggested leaders of RPA are Kayum Karzai, Faruq Wardak, Abdullah Ramin, Ahmed Moqbel and Hamid Karzai.

The foundation of a pro-President party has long been a ripen task that has aggravated since the appearance of the National Front, NF. Most likely, RPA will not only play a role to counter-balance "front-line soldiers" but also could be a party that embraces constructive Taliban leaders, who appear if the negotiations were successful, and the President's supporters.

All this shows that there is a trend to form a two-party system consisting of moderate and opposition National Front and Pro-President Republican Party in Afghanistan shortly. Such a system is quite advantageous for the incumbent President, especially ahead of the 2009 presidential election.

The opponents of Hamid Karzai, on the contrary are keen on depriving him from the possibility of uniting moderate Taliban leaders in one party. It is advantages for many political players in Afghanistan, from regional leaders to mojaheds in parliament, to preserve the isolation and political loneliness of the President. The latest events in parliament where the opposition that sympathizes National Front has launched attacks on key ministers of the Hamid Karzai Cabinet can be estimated as an attempt to weaken the position of the Republican Party, which is being founded. Most likely, Farook Vardak and his colleagues will join the ruling council of the party. The activity of Afghan MPs is the first display of inter-party struggle in the country, and it is based on rivalry between the National Front and the Republican Party.

The strategy of strengthening the loneliness of the President is aimed at averting the appearance of a two-party political system and formation of a third party that consists of Islamic radicals and moderate Taliban leaders. The most important task before the opponents of Hamid Karzai is to take away moderate Taliban leaders from the alliance with the Republican Party, create an independent political organization for them with the involvement of radical politicians such as Hekmatyar and play an anti-Presidential combination with this party.

Three-party Afghanistan (NF, RPA and constructive Taliban) is less advantageous for the President who has been experiencing strong pressure from several political groups. Western politicians criticize Hamid Karzai sharply for failing to improve the situation radically. Opposition to the President is being formed abroad as international public opinion. Internal opposition has formed since the foundation of the National Front that has noisily announced its ambitions. Taliban remains as unshakable and irreconcilable opposition as fighting in the south has failed to make a breakthrough yet. The current great opposition triangle, western public opinion, NF and Taliban lays a political siege around the Kabul government and consequently, aggravates a crisis in the model of the government headed by Hamid Karzai.

It will be impossible to break the siege of the opposition without the new political initiatives and new political projects by Hamid Karzai. Clearly, the new initiative of the Afghan President is the foundation of the Republican Party and conducting negotiations with national part of Taliban or Pushtus.

At present, it is insufficient for Hamid Karzai to reach an agreement with constructive Taliban leaders. There is a need to avert the appearance of a Taliban Party, (Taliban-Pushtu Party) with its leaders independent of the President in Kabul. Hamid Karzai must integrate constructive Taliban leaders into his Republican Party not only because Taliban-Pushtu Party could become an object of political play by National Front. If Pushtus (constructive Taliban leaders) were integrated into the Afghan political system independently, then under a new situation western allies might feel that it would be advantages for them to influence the Afghan political process through the Pushtu Party rather than structures of the President operating in the country. In these circumstances, ousting Hamid Karzai is a matter of time and a moderate Taliban leader might win the Presidency.

The Afghan President is aware of this. And at the same time, his Republican Party must solve the task of winning the mass support for the president to counterbalance the NF and include national Pushtu Taliban leaders into the political system of the President by blocking the appearance of an independent Pushtu-Taliban Party. The negotiations with moderate Taliban leaders will become senseless for Hamid Karzai without fulfilling these tasks.


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