I would like to offer, however, the expectations of the war generation and of all ordinary Afghan people who are neither part of the failed ruling government, nor are they terrorists or Taliban, and I do hope that these unheard voices have a space to be heard.
writes Orzala Ashraf Nemat in an open letter to President-elect Barack Obama.
Women in Afghanistan, despite some claims to the contrary, are not liberated. Nor can an outside force liberate them. They are under-represented in the leadership and political decision-making processes; and moreover, the debates and discussions about negotiating with extremist groups such as Taliban and Hezb-e Islami are indeed endangering the status of women by limiting their access to education, jobs and political participation.
Conor Foley, who has circulated the letter, writes more about it on Liberal Conspiracy.
The low attention span of so many western commentators means that they want ‘instant’ solutions to every problem. Either we can ‘beat the Taliban on the battlefield’, as Nick Cohen predicted a year ago, or we must welcome them into the government, as Johan Hari now favours.
Why are these the only two options?
Orzala’s argument – which you can read for yourselves – is that while the Taliban cannot be beaten militarily, they can be isolated politically. She stresses the importance of supporting local, Afghan-led, peace initiatives and improving the social and economic conditions of ordinary Afghans. Strengthening the justice system, while recognising that 90 per cent of all cases get solved through customary law, improving access to education and supporting initiatives that raise the status of women are not distractions from the ‘real problem’ of tackling the Taliban, rather the re-emergence of the Taliban is a symptom of a wider failure of the intervention to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans.