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The Taliban debate

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick 19:25, Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Map showing Operation Moshtarak, an assault by coalition forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan in February 2010.

UPDATE: the Taliban debate on Radio 4 has now finished and I've closed the live chat. The chat will be archived here permanently and we've lifted the seven-day limit on the radio debate so you'll be able to listen again whenever you like. If you listened, or took part in the online debate, please leave a blog comment here and tell us what you thought. And for news of forthcoming debates and events, follow @BBCRadio4 on Twitter and 'like' our page on Facebook.

The debate is under way. Has the Taliban Won in Afghanistan? is on BBC Radio 4 now. Panellists include Peter W. Galbraith, outspoken critic of the 2009 presidential elections in Afghanistan and Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb who was working, until recently, as a senior advisor to US General McChrystal. Join the debate by typing your comments directly into the live chat below or, if you're on Twitter, by tweeting with the hashtag #TalibanDebate.

I'm hosting the debate and Radio 4 Producers Jo Mathys and Hugh Levinson are on hand. We'll publish as many of your comments as we can. We'll close the live chat at 2100, fifteen minutes after the programme ends, and we'll archive the whole debate here. We've also made sure that the programme will be available to listen to on the Radio 4 web site indefinitely.

Steve Bowbrick is editor of the Radio 4 blog

  • Listen to Radio 4 on 92-95 FM, on DAB, on your digital TV or, from anywhere in the world, online. More details on the Radio 4 web site.
  • The debate was recorded at Chatham House in London last night.


  • Comment number 1.

    What is a win for the Taliban or for the 'Allies'? They will still be there and we will leave. The questions are 1. What have we achieved? In my opinion little. 2. What about the future without us there in numbers? We will probably run targetted operations to quell terrorists bases. Was it worth the money and cost in lives? An easy one this...absolutely not! Richard, a teacher in West Yorkshire

  • Comment number 2.

    If NATO manage to train up Afghan forces sufficiently before NATO forces leave Afghanistan, so that the Afghan forces can keep the Taleban under sufficient pressure that they neither let al Qaida back into the country nor do the Taleban in Pakistan present a significant threat to that country, then it will have been worth it.

    If the Taleban or, heaven forfend, al Qaida ever get hold of Pakistan's nuclear weapons we will all be in big trouble.

  • Comment number 3.

    Not yet but it will do. They're not going to line up in front of the allied forces on a field of battle. They have time in their side. They will hide among the population until they're ready for a strike and then hit hard and quickly. The cost to them is peanuts compared to the cost of maintaining a 50000 strong army. The allies hope is to eliminate only hostiles and avoid co-lateral damage. It can't be done and every time an accident happens and civilians are killed the hate for the west (US in particular)increases. Frustration will grow in the allied camp and it will dawn on them that they are faced with a forlorn task. The best course of action is to pack up and go home and leave them to it.
    If WW2 had been fought in the same way we would still be fighting.
    The only sure way of winning is to declare war on Afghanistan and make the whole population the enemy; just like Germany. But,of course,that couldn't happen without starting WW3.

  • Comment number 4.

    Alas I think the Taliban are winning and not just the war in Afganistan. Everyday we read of what Nato calls 'collateral damage', which means more Afgan non-combitants killed and so more recruits to those elements who are against 'Western ideals and values'. Who can blame them? This leads to further attacks by such elements in Afganistan, but also in Pakistan and sometimes further afield and if NATO is fighting in their country why should they not carry the fight to NATO countries. This leads to bombings and a further polarisation of views on both sides, so that fanatics gradually take over. Already we find in the USA intolerant so-called Christians fundamentalists, like the pastor prepared to burn the Koran, which will add fuel to the fire of intolerant so called Islamist fundamentalists. It is these preachers of hate on both sides of this growing divide who are winning and it is the foolish wars started by Blair and Bush that have provided the initial tinder for this growing conflagration.

  • Comment number 5.

    //4. At 05:52am on 09 Sep 2010, Donaldsarg wrote:
    Alas I think the Taliban are winning and not just the war in Afganistan. Everyday we read of what Nato calls 'collateral damage', which means more Afgan non-combitants killed and so more recruits to those elements who are against 'Western ideals and values'. Who can blame them? //

    I beg to differ. You're following the BBC line. Every civilian casualty inflicted by the taliban - and they do seem to be the vast majority - is a sign of how the taliban is beating ISAF, but doesn't seem to make the civilians hate the taliban.

    Every civilian casualty inflicted by ISAF, however, creates hatred towards us.

    If the Afghans really do see things the way you describe, then it's very easy to blame them. But I doubt they do.

    And remember, the BBC coverage of Afghanistan is fundamentally biased. It almost never reports taliban failures or casualties. Other media have reported that the Brits, for example, have been killing taliban leaders - and it does seem that we're not hearing of so many British casualties recently.

    Not long ago, the taliban tried to attack a Nato base, and failed, losing some 25 dead, and inflicting no casualties. The BBC reported that as a taliban victory.

    Compare Afghanistan now with the USSR's war there, or the US in Vietnam. Look at the USSR and US casualties in both wars. Look at the effect those wars had on those countries' armies, and the countries themselves. The USSR did collapse, the US was shaken to its core.

    Afghanistan hasn't had even the tiniest fraction of that effect either on our forces or our countries. The taliban have, in effect, failed.

    And remember, the taliban have the BBC on their side and are still failing to win the propaganda war...for now.

  • Comment number 6.

    At 09:39am on 09 Sep 2010, The Bloke wrote:

    Well not really. The BBC does not really provide much input on the issue.

    The Pashtuns are not going to disappear, the Taliban as a force remain intact and organised. The Nato forces will leave and the Taliban will face the govenrment in Kabul. This may yet surprise everyone with a modus vivendi with the Taliban but given the past history of Afghanistan this is unlikely to be a functioning democracy with equal rights for all. If the people the west has backed in Kabul are unable to hold their own without massive amounts of western money, weapons and soldiers then they will collapse. Whoever rises or falls its probably back to the ethnic patchwork of warlords and graft with the Taliban as a major if not the major force.

    BBC reporting or not thats not a 'win' for the western powers.

  • Comment number 7.

    Just listened to this debate on Saturday, some interesting points made despite the disgraceful partisan chairing by the moderator. He interpreted panellists and ignored audience comments that didn't fit his agenda.


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