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BBC Debate: 'Has The Taliban Won In Afghanistan?' Featuring RFE's Abubakar Siddique

On September 8 in London, RFE Senior Correspondent Abubakar Siddique took part in a special debate on BBC Radio 4 titled, "Has the Taliban Won in Afghanistan?" [listen to the debate] The event took place at the Chatham House, home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs. The audience included students, journalists, policy-makers and Afghan expatriates.

Appearing with RFE’s Siddique were Peter Galbraith, an outspoken critic of the 2009 presidential elections in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb, a former senior advisor to former U.S. General McChrystal and Mariam Abou Zaaheb, a French researcher and author who focuses on the region and the influence of Deobandi Islam there.

Galbraith argued that the Taliban had won the war. His main rationale was the Afghan government is not a “credible partner” for international forces, and, therefore classic counterinsurgency warfare theory is inapplicable. He strongly criticized the regime of Hamid Karzai. Lamb argued against Galbraith, saying that the Taliban had not yet won in Afghanistan, claiming that, from a military standpoint, the Taliban is weaker now than it was in 2009. Maiam Abou Zaaheb said, despite that fact, at some point the Taliban are going to have to be incorporated into the political process.
The Taliban are not a Pashtun nationalist movement

All of the panelists agreed that, by most measures, the Taliban were not popular with the majority of the Afghan people.

Siddique argued that the Taliban have not won the war because they had failed to achieve there stated goal of a caliphate run under Sharia Law. He explained that the notion of “The Taliban” as monolithic entity is factually wrong, and that "The Taliban are not a Pashtun nationalist movement.”

Siddique also noted that by killing thousands of tribal leaders, the Taliban have undercut traditional loyalties and intimidated the average Afghan citizen. Pashtun society has, as a consequence, been culturally scarred by these assassinations.

Listeners took part in the special online portion of the debate during the program via Twitter (@BBCradio4 and @RFERL) and by commenting on the Radio 4 blog.