Amnesty in Afghanistan: Reconciliation or Concession?

Recently, according to a BBC article, the upper house of the Afghan parliament passed a bill granting amnesty to many accused of war crimes over the past three decades. Though President Hamid Karzai may still veto the bill, many supporters claim that it would be an important step towards reconciliation with members of the Taliban and others who may cause further violence if they continue to be marginalized. This theory is congruent with the result of the US government's dismantling of the Iraqi military and Baath party after successfully ousting Saddam Hussein. The byproduct of that, of course, was placing over 300,000 armed, unemployed, and angry Iraqis on the street, which was very bad.

The issue with this theory in my view, however, is that in Afghanistan the Taliban has already surfaced as an oppositional group. As such it seems unlikely that reconciliation with such a group is possible, especially from the interim government that effectively replaced them. Furthermore, this move is marginalizing the victims of those it seeks to pardon, therefore decentralizing a base of support within the country. According to the article, some MPs in the lower house of the Afghan parliament are claiming they did not understand the bill's full implications when they passed it last month, a mistake that could prove very costly.


Patrick Boyle said...

Interesting. One of the central arguments made in Woodward's State of Denial was that Paul Bremner's Debaathification of Iraq after the invasion was a terrible mistake, inflating tensions between the old regime and the new one and essentially putting hundreds of thousands of armed, angry, jobless men on the streets. It was after the Debaathification that the insurgency really exploded into what it has become today.

So it's possible that this proposal by the Afghan government has this recent history in mind. Along those lines, I tend to think that it's probably the lesser of two evils.

Chris said...

The incentives for former Baathists (and any Iraqis really) to fight is far more economic than religious. In the case of the Taliban, it's more than likely the opposite. They aren't out-of-work government employees who gradually became discontent -- they've been fighting us since we arrived.