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EDITORIAL: Biden’s Taliban buddies

Why are we killing them if they’re not our enemy?

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Vice President Joe Biden said the Taliban are not our enemy. If so, it makes one wonder what all the killing is about.

"Look, the Taliban per se is not our enemy," Mr. Biden stated in an interview last week. "That's critical." White House spokesman Jay Carney, in his customary role as clarifier of Mr. Biden's statements, explained, "It is a simple fact that we went into Afghanistan because of the attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. We are there now to ultimately defeat al Qaeda, to stabilize Afghanistan and stabilize it in part so that al Qaeda or other terrorists who have as their aim attacks on the United States cannot establish a foothold again in that country."

This rhetorical dance is true so far as it goes, but the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force defines the enemy as "those nations, organizations or persons [the president] determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations." The Taliban were given an opportunity to hand over the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 attacks but refused. That's the simple fact of why America overthrew the regime, and that's the root of the current spat with Taliban leader Mullah Omar.

The official line from the Taliban is as nuanced as Mr. Biden's. America is not their enemy; the "occupation" is. According to a 2009 official statement, the Taliban "had and have no plan of harming countries of the world, including those in Europe. ... Our goal is the independence of the country and the building of an Islamic state." To the extent the coalition stands in the way of that goal, the insurgents will continue to fight.

This highlights the irreconcilable differences that properly define the Taliban as an enemy. Mr. Biden said if "the Taliban is able to collapse the existing government, which is cooperating with us in keeping the bad guys from being able to do damage to us, then that becomes a problem for us." However, collapsing the existing government and re-creating the barbaric "Islamic emirate" are the only goals the Taliban have in this war. Mr. Biden cannot separate this objective from Mullah Omar's followers by referring to them as the "Taliban per se" as though they represent an abstract philosophy or alternate-lifestyle concept. The Taliban are committed, ideologically motivated insurgents seeking to eliminate the current Afghan government and seize absolute power. Any approach to negotiating with them that doesn't recognize that fact is doomed to fail.

Mr. Biden may claim the Taliban aren't our enemy, but America most definitely is the Taliban's enemy. Ten years of bloodshed have seen to that. It's a strange U.S. conceit to believe Washington can loose bombs, missiles and other forms of violent death on a foe with the belief that they won't take it seriously. Memories are long in Afghanistan, and people tend to respond personally when their family members and friends are killed. The tradition of the blood feud is well-developed in Pashtun culture, and the requirement to seek revenge (or justice) can last for generations.

In Obama administration terms, the United States is engaged in a war that is not to be called a war, against an enemy that is not an enemy per se, in pursuit of something it refuses to call victory. It's no wonder record numbers of Americans have turned against the war effort on President Obama's watch.

The Washington Times

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