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The 'pickup Basketball' Theory Of The Taliban

Pakistan's Daily Times:

Peaceful elements within the Taliban should be given a chance to cooperate with the government, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana said on Monday.

“I think anybody willing to cooperate should be given a chance. Dialogue is needed (to end the conflict) and for the talks to succeed, local leadership should be contacted,” he told Daily Times in an exclusive interview. He said the ongoing battle against the Taliban could not be won by military might alone, adding it was vital to formulate a “more comprehensive plan” to eliminate terrorism and militancy from the region.

Negotiating with non-hard core Taliban elements seems like a good idea--so long as it doesn't involve ceding large swaths of territory that are subjected to brutal Sharia law--and I'm surprised we haven't seen more progress on that front. "Taliban," after all, can mean a lot of different things--including young men who are little more than bored mercenaries. If one thing has defined warfare in Afghanistan these past 30 years, it flexibile allegiances.

All of which is mostly an excuse to cite this colorful passage from Dexter Filkins' The Forever War

War in Afghanistan often seemed like a game of pickup basketball, a contest among friends, a tournament where you never knew which team you'd be on when the next game got under way. Shirts today, skins tomorrow. On Tuesday, you might be part of a fearsome Taliban regiment, running into a minefield. And on Wednesday you might be manning a checkpoint for some gang of the Northern Alliance. By Thursday you could be back with the Talibs again, holding up your Kalashnikov and promising to wage jihad forever. War was serious in Afghanistan, but not that serious. It was part of everyday life. It was a job. Only the civilians seemed to lose. 

--Michael Crowley