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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Dealing with the Taleban: Time for a new strategy?
The United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, has called for a new strategy to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

He said that in place of sanctions, the warring parties should be offered incentives to join peace negotiations - such as a plan for restructuring the country once the conflict is over.

The report reflects a growing view among many UN Security Council members that the current UN sanctions against Afghanistan's Taleban leaders are doing little either to encourage political negotiations or to end the misery of war for Afghan civilians.

The recent detention by the Taleban authorities of eight foreign aid workers accused of spreading Christianity has renewed international concern about the situation in Afghanistan.

Would a more constructive policy towards the Taleban produce results? Or are sanctions still the right approach?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Whilst I am against the UN acting as a world policeman, especially in a country out of the UN charter, I think the only logical and ethical course of action is by UN Peacekeeping forces. Admittedly, this is a far from ideal solution, but intolerable crimes against human rights, as well as a maniacal religious insanity, deserve a response that will work. However, I don't think this will happen.
Will R, UK

In a country with over 3 million people on the brink of starvation, the UN was going to spend an enormous amount of money to repair some statues. FEED THE PEOPLE FIRST. And get rid of those sanctions while you are at it.
Rizwan, USA

Prosperity is the only way forward if this country is to become stable

Stuart, England
Sanctions never work, cut the supply of money and the regime will spend what little money it has on weapons to suppress their own people not help them. Funny how military intervention is out of the question, would this be the same if Afghanistan had any resources of value? - then certainly we would see the capitalist nations get stuck in like in Angola and Sierra Leone. Prosperity is the only way forward if this country is to become stable; driving it deeper into the situation which brought about this regime as in many other countries is not the way forward.
Stuart, England

I suppose respecting the sovereignty of another nation may be a radical notion, but perhaps we should let the Afghans have their experiment. I don't see or hear them calling for world domination. Until or unless they do seek to export their brand of theocracy, I say let them be. The people will overthrow them (eventually) if they are not legitimate. And if you're a non-Sunni Muslim, stay away for your own good.
Sam, USA

Passing comments is the easiest thing from the other end of the world

Rizwan H, USA

Passing comments is the easiest thing from the other end of the world. Ask the people of Afghanistan what they had gone through since the Soviet occupation of that country to the multiparty/groups government and the lawlessness of their regime which was the main reason of Taleban coming to power. Sanctions has never worked with any country whether it is N. Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Burma and a whole list of countries in every continent. It has not and will not work on the Taleban.
Rizwan H, USA

Sanctions don't work. Governments would rather let their helpless citizens suffer than bow down to external pressure. It would be better to help Afghanis who want to leave get out of the country and Taleban can have who ever wants to stay. They will do as they please anyway. There is no reasoning with people who choose to be irrational.
Arri London, UK/US/EU

Everyone should be free to believe what they want, but no group in power should be allowed to force religious laws on the people based on literature of dubious origin. The Taleban would be no match for an international task force dedicated to restoring democracy. Where do I sign up?
Jon, England

It is their responsibility to deal with the monster they created

Stephen B, US
Perhaps just allowing them to continue as they are will show the entire world the dangers of what religious insanity can do to a nation. But if there is to be a real solution to dealing with this regime perhaps that should be left up to Washington. Remember it was the American leaders who aided the Taleban with weapons training and supplying them with weapons including Stinger Missiles which shot down civilian airliners. They learned their lessons so well that a few of the trainees blew up the World Trade Centre in New York with this training. If the American leaders wish to play Dr. Frankenstein then it is their responsibility to deal with the monster they created.
Stephen B, US

I suppose it's a question of rules and just how they are played by. The Taleban may be odious and repugnant to many but like it or not they are supported by many including Middle East countries and of course Pakistan which is not exactly a pillar of democracy. Stop the sanctions not only in Afghanistan but also in Iraq for instance and at least the immense suffering of the peoples can be alleviated. You will never get this bunch of extremists to change their views whatever you do so why should simple folk suffer? I am not for the Taleban in any way but I am for human rights and by making the people of that nation suffer for the weird ways of their leaders is making the sanctions makers just as guilty as the Taleban. Sanctions as a weapon is outdated and unnecessary in this day and age.
Alan, Poland

The problem is not the Taleban but rather the greatest anachronism of the last and now present century viz. The UN. The UN is effectively controlled by the USA, France, The UK, Russia and now, also China. This structure was established out of World War II. India, the most populous democracy does not have veto power, nor does Africa. Isn't it interesting that Kofi Anan's appointment had to be sanctioned by the USA? When the World sees The UN as a body which represents all the people of the World, equally, then the actions of the UN will be honoured and respected. But then, UN resolutions will not be biased in favour of the USA and others. Shouldn't the overthrow of legitimate governments by The USA/CIA call for trial and possible imprisonment of the President of The USA?
Jehangir, USA

Have we not learned from the Iraq experience that sanctions do not work the way the UN would like them to work? Honey attracts more flies than oil. Western powers should soften their stance toward the Taleban and engage them in useful, constructive dialogue. As much as America preaches democracy, they should respect non-democratic governments and work with them to show the benefits of a free society and not punish the innocent citizens of the country and force their own beliefs.
Steve, USA/Netherlands

On May 23rd 2001 the Taleban authorities in Afghanistan confirmed that all Hindus will be required to wear a strip of yellow cloth sewn onto a shirt pocket in order to identify themselves. They claim that the measure is for their "protection". This is a chilling reminder of 1939.

The Taleban's record on respecting other religions gives great cause for concern. Their ultimate aim, upon which they are intent, is "religious cleansing". They have already demonstrated their disdain and intolerance for other religions and traditions by the desecration and destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues. We need some other options - how can sanctions work against a regime which appears to thrive on hardship. "All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing".
Penny, England

How about we focus aid and investment in all of Afghanistans neighbouring countries... and then fund and arm a genuine resistance. The Taleban have no legitimate claim to power and should not be recognised.
George Bennett, UK

The Taleban have generally bought peace and stability to the areas that they control. The western media and politicians portray a lop-sided view of the regime based on a deep-seated prejudice against anything Islamic. After years of war and an endemic gun culture people can at last walk the streets without the fear of crime. The sanctions are without legal or moral foundation and should be scrapped immediately.
Haroon_Abbasi, England

Sanctions haven't worked against such regimes anywhere in the world. The common people suffer and are too afraid (rightly so) of doing anything against the regime in power. Other than sanctions, one can either ignore what's happening in the country or attempt a military solution. Personally, I think we should leave Afghanistan to the Afghans. The sort of aid that is directed towards Afghanistan will be much better received in some African countries.

It is somewhat hypocritical, though, that countries like the US make a big deal about human rights abuses in Afghanistan, while completely ignoring human rights abuses in countries like Saudi Arabia. If only Afghanistan had something of value for the US, it would be welcomed with open arms into the global community.
Rustam Royt, England

I think the sanctions should be removed, followed by the recognition of the Taleban Government, then engage them in a constructive dialogue. And then a more relaxed way of government could follow. How can girls go to School when there are no buildings or special facilities available for them? All these things require time, money and resources - hardly available under the present scenario. Instead more arms are being funnelled to the opposition to prolong the misery.

I don't understand the selfish attitude of some people, not so long ago these people were considered freedom fighters against the Soviet Union, and now they are portrayed as "villains". Why if Iraq is made to pay war compensation to Kuwait, then surely Afghans should be considered for compensation. Instead the opposite is happening.
Fahim Khan, United Kingdom

Sanctions will only hurt ordinary Afghans

mogbeast, UK
The Taliban rule through fear and cruelty and I regret to say they would not be in the ascendant if it were not for the short sighted stupidity of the West and Pakistan. Sanctions will only hurt ordinary Afghans. Those who created this mess should now clean it up. Bigots are bullies and they always pick on the defenceless; hence the disgusting treatment meted out to women and minorities in Afghanistan. A halfwit could have seen this one coming...
mogbeast, UK

I think that we should look at our own governments first

Peter Costello, Australia
Here's a novel idea, let them run the country the way they want to. This is a country that is hardened by long drawn-out conflicts so will any type of sanction have an impact on those you want to hurt? Besides, in this consumer driven world what do the Taliban bring to the marketplace to warrant such action? Oh... human rights I hear you say? Hmmm I think that we should look at our own governments first.
Peter Costello, Australia

The Taliban were effectively raised under a climate of hardship during the Soviet era. So what good are sanctions against people who know how to manage on limited resources? Kofi Annan is on the right track but it is going to be difficult to bring in a group which knows very little else other than war.
Marc Adams, UK

I am astonished by some of the pro-Taliban responses here. This regime is the most brutal and repressive in the world at present. There are no excuses for this evil dictatorship. It deserves utmost condemnation and no concessions of any kind.
Michael Entill, UK

Isolating the Taliban from the rest of the world will not solve the problem. We should work with them for a better change.
Dawar Lodin, USA

Afghans should be left alone to solve their own problems

Abdul Wali Akberzai, Afghanistan
Sanctions are killing our people and they are not working. Instead the super-powers should put pressure on neighbouring countries to stop interfering in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Afghans should be left alone to solve their own problems.
Abdul Wali Akberzai, Afghanistan

I don't honestly think the Taleban care less what the UN say or do, I'm just surprised they've not made the letters UN illegal yet.
Tim Powell, UK

Sanctions have the effect of stifling the economy of a country but the people who end up bearing the pains are the ordinary people. In a place like Afghanistan where the people are oppressed and suppressed by the leadership, we cannot expect a revolt from them regardless of the level of hardship they are forced to face. A gradual process of reform and reconciliation is more likely to succeed and if it doesn't, measures which directly impact on the Taleban leadership, not just the citizens, will have to be considered.
Dr. C Ukeje-Eloagu, UK

It is not question of agreeing with or liking the Taliban but of facing the reality

Chengez Shah, UK
The first thing that that UN and all other countries need to do is to recognize the Taliban Government. It is height of arrogance that the world bodies do not accept the fact that the Tailban are ruling 95% of Afganistan. It is not question of agreeing with or liking the Taliban but of facing the reality. Once ground realities have been understood only then can any good come to Afghanistan.
Chengez Shah, UK

History has shown numerous times that attempts to deal with fanatics is a total waste of time. Any approaches in this regard are seen as a weakness and are taken advantage of. Unfortunately the only way is to isolate such regimes until an internal uprising provides a solution. What the world must do is ensure the disease does not spread elsewhere.
Alice, South Africa

Change takes its own course. One must realize that truth. I guess we need to play around a bit with the Taliban. We should sensibly go ahead and help them in every way (monetarily, trade wise) to establish good governance, increase trade. Human mind is such that this would cultivate a feeling of acceptance and respect in their minds which will go a long way in helping them fight their own thinking that "they are the neglected ones". Initially it would be a hard task but that's what going to sow the seeds of success. And I pity people who say that "Afghanistan will be Afghanistan, no one's going to change that!"
Vaibhav, UK

I think the UN has now realised that sanctions and one-sided approach is not an answer to all this. Though the Taliban might be wrong in some accounts but not wrong fully as projected. Their authority on Afghanistan should be respected and pushing them to the wall and applying such sanctions neither worked so far and nor it will work in future. The UN should be realistic about the sufferings of the people of Afghanistan.
Muhammad Naeem, Canada

"Constructive engagement" methods with the Taliban will only lend credibility to their authority. This is an internal matter for the Afghan people to resolve. Minimizing the full impact might only prolong the duration of the suffering and ensure that more generations of people are subjected to their reign. The worst thing one can do is to supply arms and technology to the Taliban government. Their anti-educational policies will soon ensure that they will be unable to maintain that which they have. Then, if the people living under their rule are fed up, then there will be a more permanent change.
George Milton, USA and Italy

All the problems in Afghanistan with Talibans are only because of USA and UN. After breaking apart Russia now the USA has no interest in Afghanistan. Rather the USA is trying its best to destroy Afghanistan since they know that Afghanistan is the only country that can destroy super power. As far as Talibans are concerned they can be approached with positive attitude and good intention not with the intention of harming them.
Al-Syed, USA

I also think that sanctions will not work because Pakistan is supplying all kind of weapons to the Taliban. It is only a tool for the so called international community to use as an excuse of its failure to deal with the problem of the Taliban. The time has come for punishing Pakistan. Why must the Afghan people suffer? It is Pakistan that supports the inhumane forces of the Taliban perhaps with the US consent.
S. Zalami, Afghanistan

Any plan to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan has to be sensitive to the historical and religious forces at work. However any potential resolution which seeks to encourage rather then bully must surely be a step forward, and perhaps a strategy the UN could employ elsewhere.
Richard, UK

Sanctions have never worked effectively

Rodney Lobo, Norway
Sanctions have never worked effectively. I feel that Kofi Annan is on the right track in attempting to talk to the Taleban. I do not agree with the all that the Taleban say and do, but I feel that convincing them is better than forcing them.
Rodney Lobo, Norway

I think the UN should do something to help the people of Afghanistan. Surely the Taleban must realise that going back to the year 0000 does them no favours.
Debbie, UK

The UN ought to deal with this situation in the same way it dealt with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. There has to be a strategy which allows all citizens of Afghanistan to vote in a fair election. And, like Cambodia, the population must be told that it is safe to vote and they should be given every encouragement to do so. A democratically elected government will then be in place and the state must be left to govern itself and take its own direction.
AH, Scotland

The UN must continue with all its efforts to bring this regime to see reason

Sanjay, United Kingdom
Sanctions are the only way that the Taleban can be brought to account for what they have done. They have imposed a version of Islam that is anathema to the vast majority of followers of this great religion. They must be punished for their crimes against humanity. The peace negotiations over the last months have come to nothing. The Taleban would lose face if Pakistan and Saudi Arabia stopped supporting them. The UN must continue with all its efforts to bring this regime to see reason and to account for what it has done.
Sanjay, United Kingdom

War crimes, crimes against humanity.... mmmmm, why aren't these being applied to the Taleban leadership? Whose decision is it to prosecute or not? - I hope it is not up to the politicians!
Mary Adams, UK

A more constructive policy by the UN could easily turn into a more destructive response by the Taleban. Afghanistan is another Israel - no matter how much you try to persuade, coax or force change, you'll be considered a meddler and you'll be ignored. Look at Iraq. Everyone's aware of political enforcement - but Iraq is not interested in listening, because of sanctions. Get real. Nothing will change, Afghanistan will be Afghanistan, no one's going to change that!
Nigel, UK

It's a tough one to call but a constructive policy must surely be worth a try. There is no suggestion that in the current climate the Taleban will become less extreme or unpredictable.
Davie Barbour, Scotland

See also:

23 Aug 01 | South Asia
UN calls for new Afghan strategy
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
11 Jul 01 | South Asia
UN urges Taleban to help women
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