The Barbarity Of The Taliban

Jerry Coffee
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Wednesday - August 18, 2010
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My MidWeek colleague Bob Jones and I recently presented opposing views on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. By necessity of space, both columns lacked the nitty-gritty details that help to illustrate what this war is all about. Fortunately, for those of us who easily get distracted, the Taliban, has come through again with a couple of grisly reminders. As a Wall Street Journal editorial put it Aug. 9: “The barbarity of Islamic extremists has become a commonplace event, but the apparent murder last week of 10 aid workers in Afghanistan, including six Americans, is especially notable as an education in the nature of our enemy.”

The medical aid team from International Assistance Mission - which has worked in Afghanistan since the 1960s and whose good works and apolitical nature are well-known - had trekked by foot with pack horses carrying medical supplies for 120 miles through snowy mountains to the isolated Parun Valley. After a week of medical ministering to villagers, they returned but were ambushed en route by a group of Taliban “with red beards.” According to a sole survivor - an Afghan guide - they were searched, robbed and then summarily shot execution-style, right out of the World War II Nazi atrocity playbook.


A Taliban spokesman claimed credit for the killings, accusing the aid workers of “spying and trying to spread Christianity.” But the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, strongly denied that, saying the IAM workers were “selfless volunteers who devoted themselves to providing free and much needed health care in the most remote and difficult parts of the country.”

Then there is the Aug. 9 Time cover article “What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan.” The cover features a color photo of a beautiful 18-year-old Afghan girl, Aisha, with a gaping hole the size of a quarter surrounded by pink scar tissue in the middle of her face where her nose had been.

After running away from her husband’s house and his abusive family that beat her and treated her like a slave, they tracked her down in the night and dragged her to a mountain clearing near her village in southern Afghanistan. “Shivering in the cold air and blinded by the flashlights trained on her by her husband’s family, she faced her husband and accuser.” Her judge, the local Taliban commander, ignored her pleas and decided she must be made an example. Aisha was held down by her brother-in-law while her husband took out his knife and sliced off both her ears. He then began cutting off her nose. She passed out from the pain, but later awoke in the darkness choking on her own blood. They had left her in the mountain clearing to die.

This didn’t happen back in the brutal dark ages of medieval times, it happened just last year. When granting permission for Time to use the disturbing picture of her, Aisha said she wants the world to see the effect a Taliban resurgence would have on the women of Afghanistan, many of whom have flourished in the last few years.


The heinous crime against Aisha and the wanton massacre of innocent aid workers are justified by the Taliban in the broad context of Sharia law. If we withdraw precipitously from Afghanistan - as our president has promised we will begin doing next summer - Sharia will again be imposed by a patient Taliban, rejuvenated and blood-thirsty to make up for lost time.

National security and international geopolitical considerations of a renewed alQaida sanctuary aside, these two incidents beg the question: Are we willing to simply abandon the Afghan people to the Taliban wolves, condemn the Afghan women to lives of fear, poverty and ignorance? Is there no moral imperative here that should also guide our course? Or are moral imperatives obsolete in modern America?

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