Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan and director [of studies] of the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, told RFE/RL that the deal was a "tactical success" for the Taliban, but said its significance should not be overstated.But I have another question: why does the Afghan government give visas to Christian missionary organizations? There is an internationally recognized right to freedom of religious belief and expression, but there is no internationally recognized right to enter a foreign country to propagate religion. Especially in view of the social tensions that the presence of a large number of foreigners is causing in Afghanistan right now, it would be appropriate for the Afghan government to restrict entry into the country by foreign missionary organizations.
"It is not a turning point in the history of Afghanistan or the history of NATO or the Western world. It just means [the Taliban] had a tactical success in gaining some political recognition by capturing some hostages -- in the course of which they also committed a war crime by executing two of those hostages," Rubin said. "They succeeded in being interviewed by the press and being treated as a negotiation partner by a sovereign government -- though not a major one. It doesn't signal anything about the political policy of anybody."
Rubin also said it is wrong to suggest that the Taliban achieved everything that it had hoped for when militants seized the South Korean aid workers from a bus in Ghazni Province.
"All their demands weren't met, because they were demanding the release of Taliban prisoners. But I think from the Taliban's point of view, the most important thing was that they demonstrated that they can play a role on the international stage," Rubin said. [Photo from ThanhNienNews.com: Taliban representative Qari Bashir (L) speaks to the media as Mullah Nasrullah looks on outside the Afghan Red Crescent Society in Ghazni.]
"The Taliban did behave as a coherent negotiating partner. They formulated a position. They negotiated. They reached an agreement. And they have implemented that agreement. They have succeeded in legitimizing themselves somewhat more as a political organization," Rubin continued. "But there is a tendency on the part of the media and politicians, when something gets in the headlines, to overinterpret it and [to] think that because they are paying attention to this event, it is a big turning point. It is not."
Friday, August 31, 2007
I have been getting a lot of press calls asking me to evaluate the outcome of the South Korean hostage crisis in Afghanistan. A Radio Liberty article, "Negotiations Questioned After Taliban Releases Hostages," accurately summarizes my views (though it gets my title wrong):