Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Afghanistan War: What the Taliban Is Doing about Its Image Problem

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Afghanistan War: What the Taliban Is Doing about Its Image Problem

Article excerpt

The Taliban is proposing a joint commission to investigate civilian casualties, revealing that the militants are increasingly concerned about their image in the Afghanistan war.

The Taliban is proposing a joint commission to investigate civilian casualties in Afghanistan. The move reveals that the militants are growing more concerned about their image in a war where the population's loyalty is hotly contested.

The committee would include representatives from the Taliban, International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the United Nations, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

"The stated committee should be given a free hand to survey the affected areas as well as people in order to collect precise information," reads a statement posted Sunday on a Taliban website.

Human rights groups working in Afghanistan say that the Taliban's offer should only be considered if they provide convincing security guarantees and accept international war laws. That would mean an end to the systematic killing of civilians, an unlikely change in behavior given the way the Taliban use assassinations to intimidate the population and stymie government.

"If the Taliban themselves see as part of the work of that commission that they really are hurting civilians then they might make efforts to reduce those attacks," says Ahmad Nader Nadery, a commissioner of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission in Kabul. "But what I don't think they would do is accept international humanitarian laws because they are seeing systematic attacks on civilians."

Mr. Nadery says that his commission has sought in the past to get assurances from the Taliban that they would respect the safety and independence of the commission's work in the field. "We have never got that assurance from them," he says.

Another group, Afghanistan Rights Monitor, emphasized similar concerns. They countered the Taliban offer with a 12-point list of demands. Topping the list: "genuine, concrete, and certifiable guarantees of safety. …

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