Friday, August 31, 2007

Taliban Tactical Success in Hostage Negotiations

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):
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.

"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 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."
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.


Da' Buffalo Amongst Wolves said...

"...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,".

Well, I guess that makes 2 countries with War Criminals in charge.

I mean, locking talib up in windowles trailers in 100 F. tempreatures and using the trailers/people inside for 'target practice' IS a war crime.

Isn't it?

As yet unpunished, and undoubtedly authorized by their superiors, if only due lack of any semblance of logistical planning for prisoner capture/containment within international standards

Along the same lines, also see a comment I posted to Professor Cole's Informed Comment, " The Nation: Corruption the Norm in Iraqi Gov't"
USG Reports Al-Maliki has Impeded investigations"

...Regarding 'social displacement of responsibility for actions'.

Barnett R. Rubin said...

I am puzzled by your reasoning. When I say that the Taliban committed a war crime, that in no way implies that the Bush administration has not committed war crimes. It has.

Da' Buffalo Amongst Wolves said...

Just making sure we're 'on the same page'. No confusion intended. ;>

Anonymous said...

the result of the negotiation may not be obvious, but wait for 3-6 months and see..the Skorean forces may leave afg..and that might be what was agreed upon

Ian said...

Re: your last paragraph, it's clear that restricting missionary activity only makes it more attractive to the missionaries... remember the nutty ones who were being tried by the Taliban right before 9/11 happened? At this point the missionaries already know they have to disguise their activities in the Muslim world as NGO work, development, etc.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Rubin, regarding your last point - the Government of Afghanistan is not giving visas to the missionaries, they are giving them visas b/c the missionaries are applying as aid workers. The Government of Afghanistan does not have the resources to vet each visa applicant when all of their documents are legal and their sponsoring organization is registered.

This was also the case when the Korean missionaries came for a 'peace march'. At that time, the Korean missionaries applied in different locations also (not just through the Afghan Embassy in S. Korea).

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