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March 20, 2005
Taliban Claiming Amnesty

As I noted a month ago, the Afghan government and the American military leadership in Afghanistan have begun to pursue an amnesty program to entice lower-level Taliban fighters to give up and join the democractic process. Hamid Karzai has employed well-known Taliban leaders who have pledged loyalty to the new Afghani government to assure these worn-out remnants of Mullah Omar's militia that they will receive fair treatment if they pledge allegiance to the new democracy. As Cori Dauber points out, the New York Times finally reports on this phenomenon, only after waiting weeks between reprinting a Reuters prediction that Omar would mount a major spring offensive in early March:

Although many senior officials in the frontline provinces were initially skeptical last year when Mr. Karzai spoke of an amnesty for all except the Taliban senior leadership, many of them now voice support for the policy. In the absence of the federal program, some provincial and even national law enforcement officials around the country have been welcoming the former Taliban officials and fighters home if they promise to eschew violence and support the government.

Afghan soldiers in Kandahar in the south who have fought the Taliban for the last three years said recently that reconciliation was the only way to end the insurgency and bring peace. In Khost, villagers and local officials said it was necessary and humane to allow Taliban supporters to return, except for the 30 to 50 senior Taliban members who, the Americans and top Afghan officials agree, should face trial.

I'm not surprised that the program appears to work. After all, the Taliban never really had that much popular support and relied on al-Qaeda for much of its ability to keep the Afghanis oppressed and terrorized. Many of these fighters have spent the last three years or more hiding in the mountains, waiting for the advent of Omar's offensive that simply has never materialized. Meanwhile, their families have returned to a more normal life, and their country has withstood the pressures of tribal politics to garner more and more stability and popular support.

Omar may still launch an attack out of the mountains. However, unlike what Reuters predicted, his forces have drained off so badly that the only option he has will be to use up his commanders in suicide missions on a prepared American defense. Its only effect will be to save us the trouble of a trial.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 20, 2005 11:37 AM

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