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April 15, 2009

Children of the Taliban
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

I noticed that last night Spencer Ackerman also watched the chilling and mesmerizing Frontline documentary Children of the Taliban.  Spencer and I were both particularly moved by a scene that Spencer describes:

Allow me to note as well that a teenager who survived a U.S. drone strike that killed his cousin -- dogs were eating the boy's corpse and so his family could only bury his legs -- tells an interviewer, "God willing, I will join the Taliban." His best friend vows to join the Pakistani army to fight al-Qaeda. The two boys nonchalantly confide in the interviewer that they will kill each other if necessary.

I strongly recommend watching the whole thing. Very powerful and moving.


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I have to believe that the cousin will prevail because he is more deeply motivated. It's like the story of the rabbit who outruns the hunting dog. Why? The rabbit is running for his life but the dog is merely working for his master.

Atrocities committed by the allied forces in Afghanistan are counter-productive undoubtedly. Afghanistan and Pakistan have become the focal point of both the regional and global politics. Athletes in political gymnasium have left no stone unturned to make the situation worse by the future security threat emanating from the tribal belt of Pakistan which according to them provide safe heavens to terrorists. Even after 8 years of the impulsive reaction of 9/11, the security situation in Afghanistan and across the world is deteriorating. People in Afghanistan and Iraq have been killed brutally. The military strategies considered appropriate for dealing with the menace of terrorism have failed completely. More and more peoples are being dragged into this quagmire. Terrorism scope and domain is widening. Despite having spent almost $1 trillion, military objectives haven't been achieved. Therefore, the problem of terrorism in Afghanistan and adjacent Pakistani tribal belt must be understood in context of the following areas:

1. Afghanistan in the retrospect
2. Strategic location of Afghanistan & Pakistan
3. The rocky terrain
4. Irredentism
5. Future security threats and drone attacks on Pakistani soil

First, the study of Afghanistan in the retrospect gives a clear message to the readers that the British could neither conquer Afghanistan nor able to administer this area in 19th century. Even USSR couldn’t achieve her objective and had to face a drubbing and sheer defeat after almost a decade long siege of this territory in 20th century. Both powers injected military and economic resources to their best but had to leave Afghanistan at its pity to save their remnant prestige. USSR military barren tanks bear deserted look in Afghanistan even today and present the mockery at the death of communism. Then why does the US think it can win in Afghanistan?

Secondly, the strategic location of landlocked Afghanistan must also be considered. A stable and prosperous Afghanistan is in the best interests of the South and Central Asian region. A troubled country like Afghanistan is troubling Pakistan. It has critical repercussions on Pakistani politics and economy. Afghanistan can best be termed as an instance of critical geo-politic.

Thirdly, the rocky terrain of Afghanistan gives an upper hand to the terrorists. These terrorist are better aware of hideouts and sanctuaries which camouflage their activities against their enemy. Terrorists are expert guerilla-fighters. They attack allied forces and are out of the scene in no time. This rocky terrain is the major hindrance in the way to fight this menace. This ground having specific characteristics or military potential have witnessed bareness not development. Infrastructural development has not even been satisfactory. Though Afghanistan is minerally enriched country yet it remains one of the poorest and backward countries in the world. Therefore, the dire need of the time is to focus on infrastructural and communication development in Afghanistan with better social life for its people.

Fourthly, irredentism plays vital role also. People of Afghanistan and other Muslim world are tightly coupled together. They share common religious and ethnic values. It is a phenomenal scenario because if any Muslim country experiences pain, it reverberates through the whole Muslim Ummah. This realization bounds all sects of Muslims into one bond.

Fifthly, last but not the least; the doctrine of future security threat emanating from the tribal belt of Pakistan’s tribal belt has further degenerated the security situation from bad to worse. Drone attacks on Pakistani soil are counter-productive. These drone attacks have no major negative aspects.
1-Causing anti-US feelings
2-Demoralising Pakistan’s effort to curb terrorism
3-Strengthening the hands of terrorists through public sentiments

Pakistan Army is fighting Global War on Terror (GWoT) with the best of its capacity. Enemy is equipped with modern weaponry. Pakistan Army has suffered from the greatest number causalities over 1600 in number. This figure is greater than the accumulative causalities of allied forces in Afghanistan. Still Pakistan is suspected of assisting terrorism. Pakistan’s economy has also been affected drastically due to this war on terror. GWoT has incurred Pakistan over $35bn loss. FDI has almost dried up. Pakistan Army must be propped up militarily with state of the art weaponry and its personnel must be fully trained especially for fighting terrorists. But international media is creating hype to demoralize Pakistan Army and its strategic institutions like ISI. Can Pakistan Army fight at its best when its allies defame its strategic institutions?

But Pakistan’s territorial integrity and sovereignty is trespassed by the NATO drones attacks. During last 30 drone attacks on Pakistani tribal belt over 600 people were killed, and out of this number on a dozen were the suspects. Is it not counter-productive? Is it not generating anti-US emotions? Is it not producing suicide bombers? Just ask a man in Afghanistan or Pakistan whose whole family became victim of drone attack. Will he be peaceful? Will he not blow himself with explosive material and attack government installations?

Who are the beneficiaries of this situation? Only terrorists. Because such people as victims of drone attacks are susceptible to terrorist organizations. This practice is only strengthening the hands of terrorists.

Hence, a multi-pronged strategy is the need of hour to better address this menace of terrorism. The best way is to invest on human capital, empowering people against terrorists, building infrastructure, creating educational and regular employment opportunities will surely address this situation well. But peace cannot be established unless there is PEACE!

[Asif Raza, Pakistan]

Asif Raza, you make no sense. "Peace cannot be established unless there is PEACE?" What does that mean?

You talk about atrocities committed by the allied forces, including the killing of 600 innocents by drones, in the fight against "terrorists" -- but then who are the real terrorists?

from the DOD Dictionary: terrorism -- The calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of unlawful violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological.

You talk about atrocities committed by the allied forces, including the killing of 600 innocents by drones, in the fight against "terrorists" -- but then who are the real terrorists?

@Don Bacon & Bottega Veneta Wallets
Respectfully, i do perfectly agree with the definition you have posted here. There is no doubt that those who have jeopardized peace and carrying out violence in the entire region must be dealt with iron hand, and the world must show zero-tolerance towards them. In the contemporary context, regional and global efforts are being made to establish peace but it does not seem to take place at all. And the reason is very simple: collateral damage. The way drone attacks are killing innocent children, young women and men who have nothing to do with terrorist activities. This practice is merely instigating the situation. That's only due to intelligence failure. Therefore, intelligence sharing between CIA & ISI is imperative to defeat the common enemy in order to avoid collateral damage.

Respectfully, i do perfectly agree with the definition you have posted here. There is no doubt that those who have jeopardized peace and carrying out violence in the entire region must be dealt with iron hand, and the world must show zero-tolerance towards them.

Respectfully, i do perfectly agree with the definition you have posted here. There is no doubt that those who have jeopardized peace and carrying out violence in the entire region must be dealt with iron hand, and the world must show zero-tolerance towards them.

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