The Taliban: Who are they? Why are they fighting? And what will make them stop?
If you take some time to consider the 22 Taliban that were killed by the US-led coalition in Afghanistan on 10 July according to an Associated Press report, chances are you are probably imagining a group of fanatical, irrational, medieval-minded men hell bent on destroying the very foundations of Western civilisation.
Or at least that is what Western propaganda would have you believe. But is this an accurate, or useful, description of those people violently resisting British forces on the ground in
Thousands of miles away from the war zone, British politicians are keen on trotting out the line that 'our brave boys' are in
So what is motivating these people to attack British forces? Speaking to me last year, James Fergusson, a freelance journalist who has travelled to
However, Fergusson's own discussion with a Taliban Lieutenant strongly hints at the main motivation of many of the insurgents. Deep in Wardak province, the articulate Afghan turned to the British reporter and pointedly asked, "Supposing thousands of Afghans had invaded your country, and bombed your villages and killed your wives and children, what would you do?" Strangely this analysis is broadly supported by none other than the former British Secretary of Defence Des Browne, who argued over three years ago that "the very act of deployment into the south has energised the Taliban".
Complementing Fergusson's and Browne's evidence is an illuminating poll of Taliban fighters in
The Globe and Mail's findings jar uneasily with Gordon Brown's assertion that
Perhaps most surprising - at least for those who receive information about the war solely from the mainstream media - is the news the Taliban have been pushing for a negotiated settlement, a course of action supported by 64% of Afghans according to a BBC/ABC poll published earlier this year. The Taliban and other insurgent groups have been talking to intermediaries about a potential peace agreement, reported the New York Times recently, with their first demand the withdrawal of all foreign forces in
With the extent of public support for the war currently a matter of intense public debate, seeing our ‘enemy' in Afghanistan as human beings with rational concerns and legitimate grievances can only damage the Government‘s increasingly unpopular case for the continuing occupation. Only when people begin to ignore the deluge of Government and military propaganda pouring out of their newspapers, televisions and radios will they clearly see that the escalation of the conflict ordered by President Obama can only lead to more civilian deaths and refugees, an increase in the terrorist threat to the West and, most disturbingly, act as a successful recruiter for the very people the US and UK are fighting to defeat.
*An edited version of this article recently appeared in the Morning Star.
Ian Sinclair is a freelance writer based in