Afghanistan Quagmire Sinks Deeper

Six years ago, President Bush proclaimed America’s triumph over the religious fanatics known as the Taliban. In the hurried collapse of the nation, a Taliban key leader Mullah Omar escaped into the mountains along with Osama bin Laden. Six years later, the forces of insurgency not only include the Taliban by various sects and factions and militia leaders. There are myriad players in the anti-western alliance, some motivated by religion, others by hostility to certain leaders, and undoubtedly, some who simply know no other life but fighting. President Karzai comes from the Durrani dynasty which had been important for over two centuries, but many of his opponents are from the Ghizai tribe, a traditional enemy of the Durrani. A question rarely posed by the Bush administration is how did the Taliban, who supposedly were defeated in 2001, snap back so quickly as a formidable force in Afghanistan? America’s ally, Pakistan has been a key player in hiding, equipping, and nurturing the Taliban in the wilds of western areas of their nation.

Ironically, the Shiite leaders of Iran were enemies of the Sunni Taliban and provided assistance to American efforts to wipe out their opponents. Instead of building on that aid, the Bush administration turned in fury against Iran, an action that only served to increase the power of the Taliban. In a dramatic act of anger, the Iranian government is now providing the Taliban, its former enemies, with military assistance. In 2006, British intelligence estimated there were 1,000 Taliban in the southern province of Helmand. The British armed forces killed at least 600 of them. But, the Taliban remain strong and continue obtaining new recruits. The real question is what would it take to damage the power of the Taliban?