Negotiating with the Taliban is worthless: Dr. Kaushik Roy
Professor Scott Gates of Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and Director of Centre for the Study of Civil War and his colleague Dr. Kaushik Roy of Jadavpur University, India, at a seminar organized by Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), Norway, spoke about their book and gave participants insight into the current situation in South Asia.
Their book, ‘Unconventional Warfare in South Asia’, has been appreciated for its eccentric insight into the situation in South Asia. As it frames a debate as to whether the region is witnessing a ‘New War’ or does the twenty-first century belong to the insurgents. Apart from this, it takes a closer look at theories and tools in South Asia; Tribes, state-building and guerrillas in North-East India; Communist insurgencies: Maoists in Nepal and India; Jihadis in Kashmir; Insurgencies and counter-insurgencies in Pakistan,in Afghanistan: from the Soviets to the Americans, in Punjab and in Sri Lanka: 1983-2009.
Authors Dr. Kaushik Roy and Professor Scott Gates, during the event, also spoke to the Oslo Times Editor-in-Chief, Hatef Mokhtar, in regards to the political scenario in Afghanistan and about the challenges the new Afghan government faces in maintaining peace and stability in the South Asian nation.
The excerpts below give us a brief insight into their findings on the situation in Afghanistan:
Being an Indian scholar, what made you interested in writing about Afghanistan?
Dr. Roy: Well, why can’t I write about Afghanistan? I am an academician as well as a historian? My write-ups are not based on the traditional view of the government. They revolve around a scholar’s viewpoint and opinion.
What is your opinion on Afghanistan?
My colleague, Scott Gates, and me are working on this book on Afghanistan. While editing it we have always tried to understand why the polity of the Afghan state has always been weak and fragmented? Is it because of foreign intervention or are there social, cultural and economic reasons behind? What is the reason behind it? These are things we have always tried to understand.
Has the coalition army rule in Afghanistan been positive or negative?
Dr. Roy: Well to say whether it was positive or negative would be unscholarly. However, what we have studied are the factors for which it was implemented in the first place and secondly the long-term impact it has had on Afghanistan and the world.
So, what was the impact it had?
Dr. Roy: No matter how negative foreign intervention usually is, in Afghanistan’s case intervention by NATO and America has been somewhat positive after 9/11, as it resulted in the fall of the Taliban and the establishment of a new moderate Islamic government. So, in my view this has been positive.
Scott Gates: The long-term impact is very difficult to determine, it is too early to know. There are many pessimistic signs. The theory by which the intervention occurred was of a mixed consequence. So there is a presumption in the intervention. There is a state intervene to support it. The problem with Afghanistan especially at the time of the intervention was that it was an extremely weak state, basically, not in the normal state of controlling its boundaries. In this environment US policy is presuming a state, and from my own perspective this is the vantage point that many things were being discovered, while the initial intervention occurred, on the basis of a state in operation. This misses the point of civilian centric or civilian focused intervention as it occurred on the basis of state support intervention. This creates problems and it can create trouble in the long term too. I do think that there is a great possibility in the long term too, I do think there are positive possibilities in the coalition government. I think Ashraf Ghani has big tasks ahead of him. It is going to be very difficult. But I have met him, I have had two dinners with him, he is an extremely impressive man. Amazingly impressive actually and he has got incredible energy.
There are difficulties in coalitions. Especially power sharing among coalition members is inherently unstable and very difficult to sustain. But there are good examples to remain positive. In Kenya it was sustained, the only way the violence in Kenya ended in 2008, was a result of a shared executive in Kenya. That shared executive was persistent and the subsequent election occurred with no violence.
So there is hope, I mean I can be very easy and critical about what shared government means about when you hold elections and it doesn’t matter. If all the parties go through things like that I can be very critical. But I can also be positive and optimistic as Kenya has survived and had subsequent elections. Kenya is not a strong state either, it’s a weak state. So I do think that, despite an academic perspective we have been very pessimistic, it is possible if we look at the Afghan case through historic perspectives. If one thinks about what is possible in Afghanistan? There are great possibilities in Afghanistan for stability and moving forward. It is dangerous but a state with great and extraordinary possibilities. I actually think, like Dr.Roy’s analysis, there are great opportunities. In this case everyone is negative so I guess it’s my turn as an academician to be positive.
Dr.Roy: The future challenges for the Afghan Government will be to raise adequate revenue to sustain itself. Foreign donors have their own vested interest in creating potential instability in Afghanistan so as long as it remains dependent on foreign donor it will remain unstable. The biggest challenge in front of the Afghan government is to raise adequate resources for the domestic society and state building.
How do you think the new mutual security agreement between the Afghan Government and the United States will affect this quoin you are talking about or has it been taken into account?
Scott Gates: Well I would have the quoin exercises done in a different manner then it was, much more of a population focus. From the beginning, there has not been a shift in that policy. It is also the human aspect of the American intervention. There’s a colleague of mine at the University of California in Santiago and in a power point presentation he begins with a photo of an American GI who has got a complete armored vest, armored suit, who has got his infrared vision on and he has got these listening devices and everything and he looks almost like he is a robot man. And then he says this is going to encourage civilian response? If you are an ordinary civilian in regular clothes and if you have another one in front of you in full body armor that is expressing something that is civilian oriented, it creates a problem. But I think the change in policy is there and politically I think things have turned out well.
What are your views on the Taliban?
Scott Gates: The Taliban is a destabilizing force. They have been the way Al-Qaeda was supported to destabilize the state. Afghanistan will have to make internal efforts in the future to bring moderate elements of the Taliban and integrate it into the state system structure and to marginalize the extremes.
Scott Gates: I think Afghanistan government faces potential danger. The good news is that there is a new president in Iran, though he isn’t as moderate as we would like him to be. But he is more moderate than the past president of Iran. But make no mistake he is not a liberal.
From what we have heard President Rouhanni is just playing with the western world, what do you think about it?
Scott Gates: I don’t think it is true. I have never been to Iran and I am not an Iranian expert but my colleagues here would disagree to this.
Is it possible to have dialogs with the Taliban, would it be beneficial to have negotiations with them?
Dr Roy: I would say negotiating with the Taliban is worthless and they should just be eliminated. By this, I mean the main body should be eliminated and its auxiliary follower can be co-opted into the system. The future task of the government is to co-opt with the peripheral supporters of the Neo Taliban.
Who are the NeoTaliban?
The NeoTaliban is the group, which came up after Mullah Omar’s 9/11 exodus. The NeoTaliban is different because they use a lot of satellite, videos and are not as rigid in terms of human rights and in keeping beards. They are considered a new brand of Taliban because they have adapted themselves to the new changing circumstances and are opening up to it.
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