The declining economy has been on everyone’s mind, but the situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating as well. In an interview with The New York Times earlier this month, President Barack Obama offered a sobering analysis of the conflict, saying that the United States was not winning in Afghanistan. Obama has since suggested that he is looking into negotiating with the more moderate factions of the Taliban in order to convince them to fight against the extreme branch of the group, a strategy that was successful with Sunni tribes in Iraq. But now, according to U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan William Wood, the U.S. is considering the more controversial idea of allowing the Taliban to form its own political party.
At first glance, one might be shocked that the U.S. would ever even think about granting the Taliban, which former President George W. Bush called ‘a global terrorist group,’ any legitimacy in the Afghan political system. But if Obama’s plan is to simply oppress the Taliban in hopes that it will just go away, it may backfire. Allowing it to form a political party will only make Afghanistan a more democratic country, and less likely to return to one-party rule, as it was under the Taliban. Even if the situation in Afghanistan reaches a point where violence caused by the Taliban has ceased, the Taliban will never truly go away. The U.S. should recognize this reality and grant them the ability to express themselves in the political arena, rather than through violence.
There is no denying that many policies of the Taliban are appalling, especially in regards to the oppression of women. Under Taliban rule in Afghanistan, women were not allowed to attend co-educational schools, and any schools for girls were shut down. A woman’s ability to work was also severely restricted when the Taliban was in power. As offensive as these ideals of the Taliban are, the U.S. cannot play the role of the global police and decide what is right for a country. If the Taliban wants a political platform for their repulsive views, then nobody should stop them. It is up to the people of the now-democratic country of Afghanistan to reject the Taliban’s extremism should it ever appear on a ballot.