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On the Afghan Amnesty Law, Baradar, and Marjah

The timing of the high profile capture of Abdul Ghani Baradar, the low profile passage of Afghanistan’s Amnesty Law, and the highly unconventional offensive against Marjah have some questioning if all three are an opening gambit to push Mullah Omar to the bargaining table.

The Afghan amnesty law was barely passed in 2007, but was shelved until a few weeks ago when it was put into effect without announcement.  The law has been subjected to extensive criticism from several different areas, including from human rights groups.  Human Rights Watch went so far as to call the law a “total abdication of the state’s responsibility to investigate and prosecute crimes.”  What the law does provide, though, is a way out for demoralized Taliban fighters.  As some have noted, though, the Taliban have been anything but demoralized leaving many to question if the law could ever be effective.  The law may receive more attention in the coming weeks.

The capture of the Taliban’s senior military commander coupled with a massive military operation aimed at the heart of Taliban territory could produce a significant number of defectors.  If the operation is successful in dislodging the Taliban and severing the link to vital funds provided by opium traffickers, the ensuing hardship could lead to more low-level insurgents taking up the government on its offer.  Moreover, Baradar himself could provide intelligence leading to the capture of mid-level commanders who will be far more inclined to accept amnesty in exchange for intelligence.  Finally, Baradar was instrumental in formulating a new code of conduct to regain popular support and his loss will be felt by the Taliban.  If his departure is similar in any way to Mullah Dadullah‘s, the Taliban could return just as vicious as when Dadullah was killed.  A weakened and increasingly brutal Taliban would play directly into the hands of General McChrystal and his population-centric COIN strategy where NATO and Afghan forces can play the role of protectors against Taliban atrocities.

The timing of the amnesty law paired with the capture of the Taliban’s military commander just prior to the largest offensive in nine years could provide the perfect storm necessary to finally break the will of the Taliban.  Failure, though, could signal that NATO has simply run out of ideas.


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