For over twelve years, the Taliban has straddled the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan, not laying a legitimate claim to either country but having an enormous influence on both. The US-led coalition that had chased the Taliban and al-Qaeda out has had no luck containing the Taliban-led violence that has been steadily increasing throughout the past decade. On Pakistanís end, the Pakistani governmental forces have also been unsuccessful in their attempt to limit the Talibanís influence on their country. As the years drag on, the mission to eliminate the Taliban has become increasingly unpopular in the United States, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. People are clamoring for negotiations, and Pakistanís new government has deemed choosing the pen over the sword when dealing with the Taliban as one of its primary platforms. However, unfortunately, the reasoning behind this appeasement strategy is flawed. To put it simply, in order to even achieve some modicum of success against the Taliban, immediate negotiation is not the right answer.



In 2009, Malala Yousafzai, who spoke at Harvard earlier this year, began documenting her life under the Pakistani Taliban rule. The Taliban had taken over her home in the Swat Valley and enforced the rule that no girls above the age of 10 could go to school. In her diaries that were anonymously published by the BBC, Malala wrote about the extremist interpretation the Taliban had of Sharia law, especially against women. However, her identity was soon discovered by the Taliban, and the 14-year-old Malala was ambushed and shot by Taliban gunmen. The incident prompted Pakistani forces to drive the Taliban out of Swat Valley later that year. However, in recent years, Taliban violence in Pakistan has soared. Last January, 29 Shia Muslims riding on a bus were bombed by several Taliban militants. In Karachi, Pakistanís largest city, two female doctors were shot to death by gunmen. In this past January alone, over 40 soldiers or security forces have been killed across Pakistan. †The Taliban has become scarily good at assassinating top officials in the Pakistani government, thus paralyzing the crackdown on the militants. Suicide bombers and gunmen have killed senior officials in the police and army, religious leaders, bureaucrats, and politicians with impunity in the last year. They have bombed mosques, churches, marketplaces, and public transportation without any regard to decency. Bill Gatesís campaign of polio vaccination in Pakistan has come to a standstill because the Taliban have been killing so many of the vaccinators.

Besides violence, the Taliban has also begun influencing the law in Pakistan. In Karachi, more and more lawsuits are being filed in the Taliban mobile ďcourtĒ system. Like in Afghanistan, the Taliban judicial courts have gripped the poorer and more unsafe areas of Pakistan as they are the lesser of two evils, compared to the corrupt governmental courts. They provide at least some form of justice in areas where infrastructure and thus government is nonexistent. However, in recent years, the courts have extended their influence to such metropolises such as Karachi and also expanded their power. In more recent months, the courts have begun enforcing their own interpretation of Sharia punishments. For example, last January, a thief was publicly lashed by the Taliban judicial court. As more and more legitimate lawmen are threatened by Taliban militants into leaving their practices, it appears that the Taliban is slowly winning its battle for sovereignty in the Afghan-Pakistani locality.† As the years pass with no success against the Taliban, many analysts are calling for negotiations with them. In fact, the president of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, has made negotiations one of his central policies. However, his policies are stagnant. Sharif has not made many moves since coming to power last June, and Pakistanís situation is becoming more and more dreadful.

Outside of Pakistan, the US is set to withdraw forces from Afghanistan this year. However, with the Taliban gaining similar footholds in Afghanistan as it has in Pakistan, it is clear that negotiations with the Taliban is not the answer.† Right now, the Taliban has the upper hand in negotiations. It has achieved this status by winning over the people and destroying any semblance of order and hope that Afghanistan and Pakistan had coming to the negotiation table. The status quo as of right now is that the militants are stagnating public infrastructure and society. Even though, admittedly, US drones are knocking out Taliban leaders one by one and Pakistani forces have been defeating large amounts of militants, the Taliban does not stand to lose anything as of right now. Negotiating is a victory for them. They can only gain influence through negotiations. The US and Pakistan need to tackle the problem at its roots. If they do want to negotiate, they have to make sure they at least have some sort of upper hand. They do not have to have the Taliban at its knees or eliminate all their leaders. They simply need to show that they are choosing to negotiate for the good of both parties, not because they have been pressured by the Taliban. As for taking steps to fight the problem, first off, the Taliban has been gaining influence because it has won over the people. It is no secret that lawlessness is a major morale killer for any civilian. National security is of essence for a functioning state. Even James Madison, the father of the US Constitution, maintained that national security should precede certain rights and freedoms of people. The US (or Afghanistan) and Pakistan should emphasize law and order above all things. More boots on the ground does sound unappealing, but it is much better than the alternative. Law and order will give the Afghan and Pakistani people a much better alternative than the Talibanís twisted sense of Sharia law and possibly cause them to lend support to their respective governments. As the Afghan and Pakistani governments begin gaining footholds over their countries instead of losing them, then they can negotiate with the Taliban. The pen is often mightier than the sword, but oftentimes it needs the sword to back it up in order to be truly effective.