The Taliban have launched an ambitious appeal to the umma (the world-wide Muslim community) for money to fund their "holy war" against the Western invaders.
"In the light of Islamic sharia, all Muslims everywhere are duty-bound to join the Jihad with money and soul," the militant group said.
The Taliban "are still waging legitimate Jihad single-handedly with mere help from common sincere Islam-loving masses and is in dire need of financial assistance from the Muslim brothers worldwide for its military and non-military expenditures," it added.
This got me wondering about British Muslims' view of the war in Afghanistan. Do they, like my Muslim friend and the poor deluded loon Yvonne Ridley, regard the Taliban as basically misunderstood and misrepresented good guys, fighting for the right to establish a pure Islamic state (whilst at the same time acting as charity workers)?
Here's how my Muslim friend interpreted the Taliban's abduction of Ridley and their blowing up of the Buddhas.
So who are the Taliban? Who is supporting them? Are they being manipulated?I met Yvonne Ridley some years ago, the intrepid Daily Express reporter who was captured by the Taliban. Yvonne's story is worth telling in detail, but the substance is that American agents encouraged the Taliban to murder her in order to make black propaganda for war. The Taliban warned her of this plot, and transported her under armed guard to the Pakistani border. A shortwhile before this, a UNESCO team had visited Khandahar with an offer of aid for restoration of the Bamiyan statues. In a country were several thousand children were dying every month from hunger and disease, the Taliban insisted that the money be used instead for food and medicine. When theUNESCO team refused, the Taliban decided to blow up the statues after many months of dithering on the issue. And so our televisions carried not the news of Yvonne Ridley's killing, but the sight of ancient Buddhist monuments being blown up.So according to one Muslim at least, the Taliban were misrepresented by the (no doubt Zionist led) Western media. Their destruction of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which we in the West had been led to believe was done because the statues were "un-Islamic" were in fact destroyed because UNESCO refused to give money to starving children. Cuh- who'd have thought it, eh?
How far is this view of the Taliban as shaggy naive softies, cruelly manipulated by cynical western super-powers shared by the Muslim community, I wonder. To help answer this, I've asked the Muslim blogger, London Muslim, if he'd consider doing a post. I'll let you know his response (if any))
In the meantime, let's examine the Taliban.
Human Rights abuses. (click on the  for links to references)
According to a 55-page report by the United Nations, the Taliban, while trying to consolidate control over northern and western Afghanistan, committed systematic massacres against civilians. UN officials stated that there had been "15 massacres" between 1996 and 2001. They also said, that "[t]hese have been highly systematic and they all lead back to the [Taliban] Ministry of Defense or to Mullah Omar himself." "These are the same type of war crimes as were committed in Bosnia and should be prosecuted in international courts", one UN official was quoted as saying. The documents also reveal the role of Arab and Pakistani support troops in these killings. Bin Laden's so-called 055 Brigade was responsible for mass-killings of Afghan civilians. The report by the United Nations quotes "eyewitnesses in many villages describing Arab fighters carrying long knives used for slitting throats and skinning people". The Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, in late 2011 stated that cruel behaviour under and by the Taliban had been "necessary".
In 1998, the United Nations accused the Taliban of denying emergency food by the UN's World Food Programme to 160,000 hungry and starving people "for political and military reasons". The UN said the Taliban were starving people for their military agenda and using humanitarian assistance as a weapon of war. Remember, these are the same Taliban who, according to my Muslim friend, destroyed the Buddhas only so as to convince the UN to give money to starving children
On August 8, 1998 the Taliban launched an attack on Mazar-i Sharif. Of 1500 defenders only 100 survived the engagement. Once in control the Taliban began to kill people indiscriminately. At first shooting people in the street, they soon began to target Hazaras. Women were raped, and thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate. This ethnic cleansing left an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 dead. At this time ten Iranian diplomats and a journalist were killed. Iran assumed the Taliban had murdered them, and mobilized its army, deploying men along the border with Afghanistan. By the middle of September there were 250,000 Iranian personal stationed on the border. Pakistan mediated and the bodies were returned to Tehran towards the end of the month. The killings of the Diplomats had been carried out by Sipah-e-Sahaba a Pakistani Sunni group with close ties to the ISI. They burned orchards, crops and destroyed irrigation systems. And forced more than 100,000 people from their homes with hundreds of men, women and children still unaccounted for.
The name comes from the Pashto word meaning student. This is significant since the Taliban has its origins in a clearly recognisable ethnic group - the Pashtun tribes.
The Islamic State of Afghanistan was created in April 1992, after the fall of the Soviet-backed Najibullah government when several Afghan political parties agreed on a peace and power-sharing agreement called the Peshawar Accords.
One party however, Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami, refused to recognize the Accords and the resulting government and , according to a Human Rights Watch report, "launched attacks against government forces and Kabul generally. ... Shells and rockets fell everywhere". Gulbuddin Hekmatyar received operational, financial and military support from Pakistan whilst Iran and Saudi Arabia supported opposing militias. Soon a full scale war erupted.
In the midst of this chaos, in 1991, the Taliban (a movement originating from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-run religious schools for Afghan refugees in Pakistan) developed in Afghanistan as a politico-religious force. In the beginning the Taliban were a small band of a few hundred - badly equipped and low on munitions. Within months however 15,000 students arrived from the madrassas in Pakistan. In the course of 1994, the Taliban took control of 12 of 34 provinces not under central government control. They had become a force to be reckoned with...
In a bid to establish their rule over Afghanistan, the Taliban started shelling the capital in early 1995. In a 1995 report the UN reported:
The Taliban's early victories in 1994 were followed by a series of defeats that resulted in heavy losses which led analysts to believe that the Taliban movement as such might have run its course. But Pakistan and Saudi started to offer their support, regarding the Taliban as useful agents in the area. In fact the Taliban were largely founded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) According to Pakistani Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid, "between 1994 and 1999, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 Pakistanis trained and fought in Afghanistan" on the side of the Taliban.This is the first time in several months that Kabul civilians have become the targets of rocket attacks and shelling aimed at residential areas in the city.
With the huge military support of Pakistan and the financial support of Saudi, the Taliban entered Kabul on September 27, 1996, and established the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. But this was not an end to the fighting.
In 2001 alone, according to several international sources, 28,000-30,000 Pakistani nationals, 14,000-15,000 Afghan Taliban and 2,000-3,000 Al Qaeda militants were fighting against anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan as a roughly 45,000 strong military force.
Of all the leaders trying to resist the Taliban, Ahmad Shah Massoud emerged as the one with enough support and international credibility to pose a threat. In fact he remained the only major anti-Taliban leader inside Afghanistan who was able to defend vast parts of his territory against the Taliban.
In the areas under his control Massoud set up democratic institutions and signed the Women's Rights Declaration. In the area of Massoud, women and girls did not have to wear the Afghan burqa. They were allowed to work and to go to school. In at least two known instances, Massoud personally intervened against cases of forced marriage.
In early 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud addressed the European Parliament in Brussels asking the international community to provide humanitarian help to the people of Afghanistan.
He stated that the Taliban and Al Qaeda had introduced "a very wrong perception of Islam" and that without the support of Pakistan and Bin Laden the Taliban would not be able to sustain their military campaign for up to a year. On this visit to Europe he also warned that his intelligence had gathered information about a large-scale attack on U.S. soil being imminent. The president of the European Parliament, Nicole Fontaine, called him the "pole of liberty in Afghanistan"
On September 9 2011 Massoud was assassinated by suicide bombers.
Now, please correct me if I'm being naive - but weren't the international community (rightly) criticised for not intervening quickly enough in the Balkans when thousands of Muslims were being massacred?
The US is spending billions in Afghanistan trying to establish a stable government. It could cut and run but it hasn't. Could some guardianistas please explain?