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BRITARCH  March 2001

BRITARCH March 2001

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Subject:

Fw: Afgahanistan:Statue Attacks Expose Rift in Taliban Leadership

From:

Mark Hall <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 10 Mar 2001 10:25:58 +0900

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And who said there wasn't politics involved in this after all....
Later, Mark Hall

----- Original Message -----
From: Rick Henika <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, March 09, 2001 12:47 PM
Subject: [eurasia-geopolitics] Statue Attacks Expose Rift in Taliban
Leadership


> S T R A T F O R . c o m
> THE INTERNET SOURCE FOR GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE
> http://www.stratfor.com
> 08 March 2001
> THE GLOBAL INTELLIGENCE UPDATE
> Statue Attacks Expose Rift in Taliban Leadership
>
> Summary
>
> The continued intransigence on the part of Taliban officials to
> ignore international calls to cease destruction of ancient
> Buddhist statues masks deeper issues. The statues lie in a
> strategically important area of central Afghanistan, the site of
> several recent clashes between Taliban and opposition Northern
> Alliance forces. More directly, however, the edict to destroy the
> statues may also reveal an increasing rift between extreme and
> moderate factions within the Taliban. This could ultimately open
> a door for the moderate factions to advance their positions in
> Afghanistan.
>
> Analysis
>
> A U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization special
> envoy returns to Afghanistan this week to try to stop the
> Taliban, which controls over 90 percent of the country, from
> destroying two large Buddha statues in Bamiyan province, in
> central Afghanistan. After a brief pause for the Muslim holiday
> of Eid-al-Adha, the Taliban is expected to resume destruction of
> the statues to fulfill a Feb. 27 edict by supreme leader Mullah
> Mohammed Omar. The edict called for the destruction of all
> statues and idols in Afghanistan, as they are "the gods of
> infidels" and all "false gods should be removed." The Taliban's
> decision to destroy the statues raised an international outcry of
> opposition to the destruction of Afghanistan's cultural heritage.
>
> The Taliban order serves several purposes. First, it positions
> Taliban forces in Bamiyan in anticipation of an early spring
> offensive by Northern Alliance forces. Second, it reinforces
> Taliban control over all areas of Afghanistan. Finally, it
> reinforces the religious aspect of the Taliban's cause amid signs
> that factions within its leadership may be willing to take a more
> moderate course. In the long run, the action could split the
> group's leadership, as more moderate elements seek to capitalize
> on the international attention and begin negotiations with
> outside powers.
>
> While deploying forces to Bamiyan to destroy statues, just ahead
> of the annual Northern Alliance spring offensive, would seem to
> make little sense, Bamiyan occupies a strategic location in
> central Afghanistan. Lying along the main east-west road along
> the central mountain range that splits Afghanistan in two,
> Bamiyan represents a potential chokepoint for Taliban supplies to
> its forces north of the mountain ranges. The region also offers
> refuge and a launch point for anti-Taliban forces in central
> Afghanistan, whereas the bulk of Northern Alliance forces are in
> the north and east.
>
> The February edict is not the first time Taliban forces have
> threatened the Buddha statues in Bamiyan. In April 1997, a
> Taliban field commander, fighting the local Hezb-i-Wahdat faction
> of the anti-Taliban forces, announced if the Taliban overran the
> area, the statues would be destroyed. The threat was never
> fulfilled, however, as Mullah Mohammed Omar vowed they would be
> protected.
>
> The Taliban finally captured Bamiyan from the Hezb-i-Wahdat in
> September 1998, and the area has shifted hands several times
> since. Opposition forces retook Bamiyan most recently in January
> and February of this year only to lose it again quickly to
> Taliban forces.
>
> In addition to destroying Buddhist and other pre-Islamic statues,
> the Taliban is attacking statues of saints set up by local
> Islamic sects, according to the Russian daily Nezavisimaya
> Gazeta. Taliban leadership is concerned these local sects, often
> made up of ethnic minorities, undermine the Taliban's central
> control. By destroying the statues, the Taliban hopes to
> eliminate their separate identity and integrate them into the
> single Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
>
> While the group has addressed the problems of ethnic and
> religious minorities in the countryside, the Taliban leadership
> itself may be split. The extreme fundamentalist views within the
> group have weakened its ability to gain international recognition
> and undermined chances for economic and political development.
> Despite some challenges by moderate elements in the group, the
> fundamentalists remain in control
>
> A recent sign of a rift between the two factions can be seen in
> the issue of Osama bin Laden, who has remained a key stumbling
> block to international recognition of the Taliban. Recently,
> there have been several signs from Afghanistan that the Taliban
> may be willing to negotiate on his removal from the country. For
> every hint of bin Laden's possible departure, however, there are
> strong statements from the Taliban leadership reinforcing its
> overriding Islamic principles. During earlier discussions of
> handing over bin Laden, fighting among the group's officials
> reportedly broke out.
>
> The decision to destroy the statues, despite the expected
> international condemnation, may have been a move by the more
> extremist factions to emphasize their control over the Taliban.
> In doing so, however, they may have opened a crack for more
> moderate leaders to position themselves as alternatives
> acceptable to the international community - at least in
> comparison to the extreme factions.
>
> The Taliban ambassador in Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, recently
> told a Reuter's interviewer that if the Islamic community could
> present a reason to spare the statues, based on Sharia law, the
> destruction might stop. The comment suggested that at least
> elements of the Taliban were willing to negotiate, even though
> Omar had called on the Muslim world "not to harmonize their
> voices with those of nonbelievers" who advocated saving the
> statues, according to Agence France-Presse.
>
> Omar's extremist position, while an attempt to assert control,
> may backfire. The Taliban leadership's more moderate elements may
> exploit the interest of the international community to open
> backroom negotiations on international recognition for the group
> and eventual economic benefits. This could bolster their position
> within the Taliban if they can show positive economic or
> political gains, and could undermine the power of extremists.
> Ultimately, the debate over destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan
> could lead to a shift in Taliban leadership.
>
> ___________________________________________________________________
>
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> List owner : Alan Fogelquist, Ph.D., Director, Eurasia Research Center -
> Moderators: Alan Fogelquist and Ralph Davis
>
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