By Brigitte L. Nacos
Since Saudi Arabia brokered a meeting between Afghan officials and former Taliban leaders in Mecca several weeks ago, Afghan president Hamid Karzai has intensified his efforts to meet with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar for peace talks. Even though the U.S. government has placed a $25 million bounty on Omar’s head, Karzai guaranteed Omar’s safe passage to and from Kabul in case of actual negotiations. Never mind the position of the outgoing Bush administration on bi-lateral or multilateral talks with the Taliban. The incoming Obama administration should leave no doubt that the U.S. will not talk to Taliban representatives and is not in favor of Hamid Karzai doing so. Negotiations should be tried in almost all cases of international and domestic conflicts regardless whether nation states, non-state organizations, or both are involved. It would be a waste of time to negotiate with extremist Jihadi movements of the Taliban or Al Qaeda variety because they would not change their religopolitical agendas one iota but in the process win a degree of legitimacy.
The close ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda and between Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden are no coincidence. Both leaders and both movements are the most extreme manifestations of Salafism. Afghanistan under the oppressive rule of the Taliban movement reflected what the Salafi school of thought envisions as societal ideal. To be sure, most Salafis do not resort to or support violence. But jihadi movements and groups do.And their religopolitical fanatism does not leave room for negotiated compromise. That's precisely what Sayyid Qutb, the influential jihadi theorist, prescribed in his guidelines for a jihadi vanguard.
The late Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, perhaps the last of the influential lay theorist in the jihadi movement, is the leading teacher of contemporary jihadis. The turning point in Qutb’s life was his 2-year stay in the United States in the late 1940s, during which he began his metamorphosis from admirer of America and the West to Jihadi revolutionary. Rejecting what he perceived moral decadence and materialism of Western societies, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood upon his return to Egypt, rose to the organizations ideologue, and eventually clashed with the government. Allegedly involved in a plot to assassinate Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser, Qutb was imprisoned and tortured but eventually allowed to write. In his most influential work “Milestones,” a manifesto of revolutionary religopolitical Islam, Qutb declared that both Marxism and the West’s democracy and capitalism had failed, that the world was not only threatened by nuclear annihilation but by a loss of moral values. It was for Islam and Muslims to bring the world back on the right paths but only after their own self-purification. For Qutb, the world consists of two camps, (1) Islam and (2) jihiliyya, the part characterized by barbarism, decadence, and unbelief—a state that existed in the world before the Prophet Muhammad delivered his divine message. According to Qutb, the choice is between those two camps—between the good and the evil, God and Satan. Because more people, Muslims included, are on the side of jihiliyya, every Muslim must take up arms in this fight.
Since these ideas are guiding today's Jjhadi movements—and what Qutb believed would be a vanguard, there is no reason to believe that anything would be achieved by negotiating with the Taliban (or, for that matter, with Al Qaeda). The Taliban was during its rule in Afghanistan and is now as insurgent force involved in both the jihad for self-purification (i.e., targeting infidel Afghans) and fighting the non-Muslim infidels (i.e., U.S. and other NATO military forces). The same is true for Al Qaeda in the same and in other regions.
P.S. If you have any doubt about the religopolitical purification that Taliban leaders and followers have in mind, read the following paragraph from a dispatch on the New York Times web site:
"The police in Kandahar have arrested 10 Taliban militants they said were involved in an attack earlier this month on a group of Afghan schoolgirls whose faces were doused with acid, officials in Kandahar said Tuesday. The officials said that the militants, who were Afghan citizens, had confessed to their involvement in the attack on the schoolgirls and their teachers on Nov. 12 and that a high-ranking member of the Taliban had paid the militants 100,000 Pakistani rupees for each of the girls they managed to burn."
Obviously, girls going to school is "decadent"enough for the Taliban to harm them.