Rediff Logo Chat Banner Ads Find/Feedback/Site Index


The Barnett Rubin Chat

Barnett Rubin (Mon Nov 18 20:27:26 1996 IST):

OK, While I was gone there were a lot of questions. About ethnic cleansing in Badghis: yes the news reports indicate that Pashtuns are fleeing to Herat and Turkmen north, some of them to Turkmenistan. It is vey hard to speculate from a distance about complex events on the ground. So far there has been little ethnic cleansing outside of kabul. The Taliban have not expelled anyone from Herat, and Pashtuns and Uzbeks were living in Kunduz and Taliqan when I visited them last January. The Taliban military successes: a combination of the loss of legitimacy of the jihadi leaders, especially the small commanders who became corrupt tyrants, and also Saudi money and Pakistani assistance. According to some reports I cannot confirm, resistance melted away when people were paid. But of course during the jihad it was not so easy or cheap to buy people because they believed in what they were fighting for. Now they do not. Massoud retreated, I think, because when the Taliban took Sarobi they were close to cutting off his supply lines from Panjsher.

A N Ray (Mon Nov 18 20:28:32 1996 IST):

Do you believe the Central Asian republics, India, Iran and Russia overestimated their initital response to the Taliban? The summit in Alma Ata...I felt they should have waited a while before rushing into a huddle and giving the impression that these mullahs were a danger to mankind? Are they a danger to mankind?

Bilquis Khan (Mon Nov 18 20:29:19 1996 IST):

hould the ascent of the taliban not be disturbing to the US? Why then is the US taking such a neutral stand? Is it because the Rabbani regime was backed by Iran. I believe the Saudi renegade sponsor of terror was spotted in Kabul along with a Pakistani intelligence officer. So days The Sunday Telegraph. Does that not bother the US? What is the rationale for the US stand?

Kabuliwallah (Mon Nov 18 20:30:49 1996 IST):

Do you believe a section of the Pakistan army inspired by then interior minister Nasrullah Babar fought alongside the Taliban and ran their campaign? What happens now that Babar is kicked out?

A N Ray (Mon Nov 18 20:33:55 1996 IST):

There is little doubt that William Casey's liberal arming and funding of the Afghan mujahideen has led to the current wave of Islamic terror in Egypt, Sudan and soon, Saudi Arabia. In New York, you have already witnessed what Islamic fundamentalism can do. In retrospect, do you think the CIA and Foggy Bottom should have monitored the flow of arms and money to the mujahideen?

Sana (Mon Nov 18 20:34:18 1996 IST):

Despite the recent show of the Taliban strength, what in your opinion are the weaknesses lurking behind this present success?

Shamsuddin Malik (Mon Nov 18 20:34:51 1996 IST):


Suparn. (Mon Nov 18 20:37:35 1996 IST):

Shamsuddin Malik: Relax, Dr Rubin is trying to answer a lot of questions

Susanna (Mon Nov 18 20:39:03 1996 IST):

Even though it says Susanna, this is Barney Rubin. My network kicked me out again. I sent something about women, but I don't know if it went through. On Central Asia: Russia and some of the CA leaders definitelyover-reacted to the Taliban. They are not a strategic threat, except insofar as they may be the machanism for installing a pro-Pakistani government in Afghanistan. They are not going to attack CA. They will not be able to capture N. Afghanistan in my opinion (though Ididn't think they could capture kabul either). Yes, Gen. Babar was the sponsor of the Taliban. I don't know if hisdismissal will change anything.

Sana (Mon Nov 18 20:42:13 1996 IST):

Despite the recent show of the Taliban strength, what in your opinion are the weaknesses lurking behind this present success?

Susanna (Mon Nov 18 20:43:32 1996 IST):

About terrorism: the Taliban are not conected to the international radical Islamists some of whom are involved ininernational terrorism. In fact, when Taliban took Jalalabad, (by the way, this is Barney Rubin) Osama bin Laden, the Saudi funder of various terrorist groups, was staying there as a guest of a member of the shura. This may be one reason the Saudis were supporting them. But I think the main reason is thecompetition with Iran over pipelines and influence in CA. By the way, the US govt. understood that even though Rabbani and massoud were getting aid from Iran this was not because they were "pro-Iranian." At least this was true inthe regional bureau. I think the US embassy in Pakistan may be quite influenced by their Pakistani counterparts, however.

shiraz hajiani (Mon Nov 18 20:44:00 1996 IST):

Greetings Prof. Rubin; It is reported that the stalemate N of Kabul is to avoid Civilian casualties; there are hopes that the people will revolt (with the help of anti-Taliban infiltartion)... Any comments? Is this is accurate? do you see any possible up-rising? Are the Taliban being stretched by the opening of other fronts : Herat, ...? In your opinion which side does time favour in this balance?

Sawant (Mon Nov 18 20:45:08 1996 IST):

What interest does Pakistan have in promoting the cause?

Susanna (Mon Nov 18 20:47:42 1996 IST):

Barney Rubin again: Weaknesses behind current success: no Afghan group has a really sustainable economic and political base of power, and none of them really has a national constituency. Furthermore, no one can establish a government over the whole country theway it was done in the past, by having a real preponderance of force. Today every group is armed and organized in its own area, and the areas have become more ethnically homogeneous as a result of population movements. In addition, while the Taliban have removed some of the obstacles to reconstituting an Afghan state (especially the fragmentation of power in the Pashtun areas), they are incapable of being the agents of state building themselves, due to their ideological limitations. They have no conception of how to exercise state power or how to engage in political deal making with other groups. But I do not foresee a change in the current stalemate for a while. Still, I could be wrong. The UN mission claims they have a plan for a ceasefire and demilitarization of kabul that all groups have commented on.

Shamsuddin Malik (Mon Nov 18 20:48:00 1996 IST):

Have you ever met with leaders of the Taliban? Do you think they are the type who would know how to work a tank? When do you think Pakistan decided to sponsor the Taliban? Was it after Ms Bhutto took power in 1993? Or was it always part of thePakistan strategy to instal a friendly regime in Kabul?

Sawant (Mon Nov 18 20:48:14 1996 IST):

How long do you think this state of affairs will carry on before the area has peace.....a lasting one? What will be the fallout for the US; Pakistan; India and the other neighbouring countries,till such a thing happens, if ever?

Bilquis Khan (Mon Nov 18 20:50:02 1996 IST):

Do you believe Dostum and Masoud's alliance will last for very long? Are yopu hopeful for peace in Afghanistan or is the region destined for another half century of conflict?

Kabuliwallah (Mon Nov 18 20:50:34 1996 IST):

Do you think the King can be a unifying force in Kabul?

Susanna (Mon Nov 18 20:50:58 1996 IST):

Barney Rubin: Pakistan's interest? Pakistan now wants a Pashtun government in Kabul, so that Pashtuns will concentrate their national aspirations inthat direction and nottoward Pakistan. In addition they want a pro-Pakistani government that will work withthem to open trade routes between Pakistan and CA, rather than with Iran, and very important, that will agree to and guarantee thesecurity of a billion-dollar piepline deal being proposed by the American firm UNOCAL and the Saudi firm Delta. It is to bring Turkmenistan oil and gas out via Herat and Qandahar to Pakistani Baluchistan and thence the world market. Iran wants to monopolize the outlet of CA to the sea, and Pakistan (allied with Saudi Arabia and the US) is contesting that monopoly. There is a new strategic game in the area.

A N Ray (Mon Nov 18 20:52:21 1996 IST):

Do you believe the continued conflict in Afghanistan will undermine the stability of the Central Asian republics? Or will the Taliban be too tied up to export Islam and unrest?

Shamsuddin Malik (Mon Nov 18 20:53:16 1996 IST):

Khan Abdul Wali Khan, the Pashtun leader, warned last week that Pakistan will not remain intact if the Taliban ruled Kabul. Do you think that is possible?

Susanna (Mon Nov 18 20:53:45 1996 IST):

There are many speculations about what massoud's strategy is. Apparently he has called for an uprising, but I don't think he has the organization in place to carry it out. (could be wrong.) Anyway, even though I gather than kabulis are disgusted withthe Taliban and fearful of them, they are not particularly enamored of Massoud and Rabbani, let alone Dostum. many of them are fleeing. Maybe massoud will try to fight inthe winter, but he will be facing severe constraints, as he is now dependent on Dostum for his supplies, I think, and Dostum will not want to build him up as a majorleader. But I come back to the importance ofthe regional states. As long as they are competing in Afghanistan, the Afghan actors will never reach an agreement. They will always prefer to see if they can do better by getting more foriegn aid.

Sawant (Mon Nov 18 20:54:10 1996 IST):

What, according to you, should be the correct stand for India to take under the circumstances....?

Kabuliwallah (Mon Nov 18 20:55:31 1996 IST):

Do you think the King can be a unifying force in Kabul? The Taliban have been ambiguous about his presence. They noffer no guarantees for his safety and yet they want him there. He is too old, and his relatives may be unacceptable. Do you think an uneasy alliance comprising the Pashtoon Mullah Umar, the Uzbek Dostum and the Tajik Masoud could rule Kabul? Can Pakistan compel all three sides to accept each other?

Sana (Mon Nov 18 20:55:44 1996 IST):

Dr Rubin, its not very clear as to what is the response of the people who are under the Taliban rule. Do they consider crude governance a better option or are they angry. What is their general response to these new rulers? who are ruled

A N Ray (Mon Nov 18 20:56:19 1996 IST):

Masoud had such a lot credibility. How did the Lion of the Panshir lose his influence? Was he compromised by the excesses of Rabbani?

Gulbahar (Mon Nov 18 20:56:29 1996 IST):

I agree that the Taliban do not pose a danger to CA; however, could Pakistani meddling eventually backfire and eventually rekindle a Pashtunistan movement?

Rob Breen (Mon Nov 18 20:57:01 1996 IST):

Rob Breen

Barney Rubin (Mon Nov 18 20:57:31 1996 IST):

I have never met the leaders of the Taliban. Most of them, though they are mullahs, received some military training during the jihad. However it is clear that the Taliban now are a much wider grouping, not just mullahs and Taliban. They include professional military officers from the forme AFghan aremy. Some people have reported that the Khalqis led by Shahnawaz Tanai, the Defense Minsiter who allied with Hikmatyar to try to overthrow Najibullah in march 1990 are among them. I can't veify this. If it's true, it indicates Pakistani support, since they were given refuge by Pakistan and worked closely with the ISI. Sawant, I can't say how long this can go on. It is a very sad and tragic situation for the whole region. Unfortunatley there is no one actor who can solve it. It requires cooperation among a lot of govenrments and organizations, and that is difficult to orchestrate.

Bilquis Khan (Mon Nov 18 20:59:12 1996 IST):

Is tghe US just going to stand around and watch? Which way is the Afghan desk at Foggy Bottom inclined? Or do they not know their way anymore?

Shamsuddin Malik (Mon Nov 18 21:01:19 1996 IST):

I am glad that the ISI has finally been mentioned. Could you share some light on the ISI role in Afghanistan? Do you think the ISI is a destabilising factor in the region?