Despite apparent aid in hostage crisis, ruling Taliban still ruthless
Fortunately the hostage crisis sparked by the hijacking of an Indian Air flight at the end of December ended with a negotiated settlement and the loss of only one life. Despite the broader policy and philosophical problems raised by negotiating with terrorists, cool heads and calm negotiation saved many lives on the tarmac in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
The negotiations were made easier according to some reports by the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic regime which controls much of Afghanistan. They made it clear to the hijackers that they would not tolerate violence against the captured passengers, and provided food and medical assistance to those on the plane as discussion dragged on.
The Taliban is also credited with moderating the demands of the hijackers. Though the Taliban's assistance earned plaudits from many voices, their behavior during this crisis is no reason for the U.S. to change its chilly attitude towards the Taliban. The Taliban's abuses towards women are well known--they have lost the right to work, attend school or leave the house without their entire bodies and faces covered. This has been particularly cruel considering that several decades of war have left many widows who are now banned from working to support their families.
There is also a threat to regional and global security posed by the Taliban regime. Americans have already become exasperated with the rulers of Kabul over the hospitality they have extended to the notorious Osama Bin Laden. Afghanistan has become by far the leading producer of the heroin sold in Europe. Despite the Koranic prohibitions against drug use the Taliban has embraced the trade, and taxes on its production keeps their government solvent. Many of the Central Asian republics of the former U.S.S.R. rightly fear that the Taliban will try to spread its influence into their Muslim populations.
The Taliban's help in resolving in hostage crisis has done nothing to change the fundamental injustices and cruelties of their regime and the danger it poses. Their international standing should not rise as a result of this incident--they are an outlaw regime which might have behaved admirably during a hijacking, but an outlaw regime nonetheless. Unfortunately there is little the U.S. can do. We have rightly imposed sanctions, but sanctions do precious little good against an economy like that of Afghanistan, which was underdeveloped even before it was pounded into rubble during the Soviet invasion and the decade of civil war that followed. Interventions in this mountainous land always bring grief to the invader. Hopefully the problem will resolve itself as Afghanistan loses patience with the repression and economic failure of the Taliban and drive them out.
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