Poll June 2007

Return of the Taliban?

The Atlantic recently asked a group of foreign-policy authorities about the future of Afghanistan.
What is the likelihood that the Taliban will return to power in Afghanistan within the next few years?
45% Unlikely

“They can disrupt Afghan life but do not have the capacity or support to retake the Afghan government.”

“If we devote the resources it deserves.”

“Unlikely, but it's likelier than I thought six months or a year ago, given the mounting unattended problems in Afghanistan.”

“Many rural Pathans support [the Taliban] but almost  all Tadjiks  and Uzbeks oppose them; Hazara hate them. Also, [the] Taliban view the Shi'a as heretics and Iran can keep them out of Herat.”

“The Taliban is likely to remain a force in the politics of Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, perhaps even establishing effective control over some parts of the country. But the government in Kabul is poised to remain in power, backed by NATO and US forces.”

“The international community is heavily involved in Afghanistan's success. Continued support to the Afghan Government should allow them to continue to mature. The most important factor is that most Afghans don't want the Taliban back. As long as NATO is responsible for security and Pakistan helps with the border areas I see it unlikely the Taliban will ever be more than a nuisance.”

“But if things don't improve this year, it could definitely fall off the table. [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai is little more than the mayor of Kabul”

“Memories of Taliban rule and its atrocities are still fresh in the minds of too many Afghans to expect them to rally behind its cause anytime soon. However, a complete collapse of the UN/NATO effort to stabilize Afghanistan could leave the country in such chaos that it wouldn’t be completely unthinkable for the Taliban to offer stability and security as a means to return to power.”

27% Somewhat likely

“If the West were to fail in Afghanistan (after having failed in Iraq), it would in this long war be the modern day equivalent of losing the Korean War in the early 1950s.  It would be a strategic setback with far-ranging ramifications. It would further demoralize and splinter the West and encouraging our adversaries around the world.  It would be a disaster.”

“"We face the eternal dilemma of nation-building in Afghanistan. We can only succeed if we provide security and economic development at the same time, to give Afghans a stake in the new order. But it is all too easy for small groups operating with hit-and-run strikes to destroy the basic security necessary for development efforts to succeed, whether it's road-building or foreign investment. Every time we shift our attention elsewhere, we lose vital ground."

“Even more likely is that the Taliban will gain effective control (that is, able to deny the writ of the central government) in a number of localities in the south and east of Afghanistan.”

“The alienation between Karzai and the Pashto majority is the most critical factor. The Taliban is riding back to power on the alienation of the Pashtuns. We risk collapse if we let the political alienation get out of hand.”

18% More and more likely

“In fact, the Taliban never lost power in parts of Afghanistan and is more likely than not going to be able to extend that power in the next few years.”

“But with the caveat that the chance of gaining control of the country is still low. Rather, they have a better and better chance of dominating parts of the country.”

“The real issue is the inability of Afghanistan to have any viable economy. When the international community gets "donor fatigue" it will fall back into the black hole of yesteryear.”

9% Nonexistent

“Washington has too much at stake to allow the Taliban to return to power. It will see to it that the Afghan government retains control of Kabul and other major cities. The Taliban will increase in power, though, and exercise de facto control of large swaths of rural areas, especially in the southern and eastern portions of the country. To some extent that process is already underway.”

“This would be seen universally as accepting defeat in the war against Islamist terror.”

“That's too ghastly to happen, and even this Administration couldn't prove that incompetent on national security.”

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