Every beef has to end. And that can go a couple of different ways. There’s the 2Pac vs. Biggie approach. Not recommended, because while you’re immortalized in hologram, you’re immortalized via hologram because you’re dead. Then there’s the Birdman vs. Lil Wayne technique, which is preferred if you’re into…not being dead.
Which is something Mullah Zakir understands, and even if the former Guest of Gitmo and one-time head of the Taliban’s military commission does not have “Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” in heavy rotation as part of his “Jihad Jams” Spotify playlist, he still gets that sometimes one has to bury the beef for the greater good.
Which is why Zakir went all YMCMB this past week, pledging allegiance to the current head of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mansoor. And thus did end one of the great insurgent beefs of all time. Or at least of all of 2015-2016.
Which is good news for the Taliban (“Yay! We can all decide to shoot at Daesh now!”) and bad news for the people of Afghanistan (“Hey! We’re not Daesh! We just live here!”). And it’s a bit of column A/column B when it comes to deciding whether this is good news for peace talks.
Because in insurgent terms, there isn’t much of a quorum when it comes to people who are going to sit across the table. And even though a Zakir/Mansoor reunion is good for business, it doesn’t mean that the rest of the factions are ready to come in from the cold. And that bodes ill in terms of a long-term agreement that’s going to be amenable to all parties concerned.
That’s how this war has to end, though, is with some kind of agreement. The kind of agreement that’s going to put some version of the Taliban and its affiliates back in charge at some level in the Afghan government. Not at the top, and not in a position with real authority. But the kind of position that lets the Taliban both save face and feel like they’re part of the solution.
The Taliban don’t want an endless war any more than Kabul does. However, since they’ve got the time while Ghani’s still trying to get Abdullah to help him wind the government watch, they’re more inclined to keep fighting. That is, if they don’t feel like a deal is going to get done that tilts in their favor.
Bringing a long-time Taliban leader like Zakir back into the fold strengthens Mansoor’s position with the old guard. And even though the young bucks are trying to topple the king, if Jay Z vs. Nas taught us anything, it’s that united is better than divided. And a unified old guard stands a better chance of fending off the wannabes and maybe making its way to the table with Kabul.
Also published on Medium.