Conflict & Justice

Afghanistan: Pragmatists Significant Voice in Taliban, Says Former Diplomat

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Michael Semple, a fellow at Harvard's Carr Center for Human Rights. (Photo: Carr Center)

Important factions of the Taliban leadership are pragmatic, and prepared to accept less than full control of Afghanistan after American troops leave, according to an insurgent commander who sat down with Michael Semple, a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at the Kennedy School at Harvard.

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Semple says based on a recent interview with a veteran Taliban leader, he believes there's a fierce debate within the Taliban about tactics and goals. For example, Semple says the recent stoning an Afghan woman accused of adultery doesn't necessarily reflect the views of all the insurgents.

"Sometimes those on the government side who want to paint the other side as being completely beyond the pale, even when the Taliban hasn't done this, they pin it on the Taliban," Semple says. "On the other hand, some of the hardliners in the insurgency, they deliberately engage in this kind of extreme violence so as to make it impossible for anybody else to sit down with the Taliban and cut the kind of deal that the person I talked to would be in favor of."

A transcript of his full interview with a senior Taliban commander will appear in the upcoming edition of the British political magazine New Statesman.

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