WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following on the heels of the establishment of Afghanistan as a gun-free zone, President Barack Obama has taken a bold step in ending the War on Terror by signing an executive order outlawing the Taliban.
“It’s a simple and straightforward approach that’ll solve the insurgency problem overnight," said White House spokesman Jay Carney. "Frankly, it’s so profoundly obvious that we’re surprised the previous administration didn’t think of it.”
The order makes it illegal to belong to the Taliban, or to other insurgent groups, such as the Haqqani and the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin terrorist networks, which have partnered with the Taliban in the past. There are stiff penalties attached: Taliban fighters have thirty days to turn themselves in and serve five days’ incarceration, or be fined 50,000 Afghanis (about $10 USD), and must also register as a terror offender.
However, current and former Taliban fighters can pursue a “pathway to legality” by transitioning into the Afghan National Security Forces. After a two-week probationary period, these new recruits will be provided a monthly stipend and issued a refurbished M-16.
While the program’s critics call it “amnesty for terrorists,” the Obama administration dismissed the concerns, citing Taliban-furnished nonscientific anecdotal polling data which indicated that less than three percent of current and former fighters expressed interest in this program.
The order also establishes a gun-buyback program similar to those implemented by some American cities: villagers can turn in weapons, no questions asked, and receive a cash payment. The $500 million buyback program was funded primarily by scrapping development of improved body armor, which Carney called “a colossal waste of money anyway.”
“We need to put the suspicions and prejudices of the past behind us and move forward together with our Afghan partners," President Obama said during a press conference. "This is a necessary step in proving a pathway to legality for the thousands of poor folks throughout Afghanistan who turned to insurgency simply because they had no other economic options. This plan helps provide that for these folks.”
“Let me be clear: What we’re talking about for these folks is not simple amnesty, as some folks have claimed,” President Obama reiterated. “Folks, this is not amnesty at all. We’re simply allowing these folks to start new lives without passing judgment on them or punishing them at all for the crimes they may have committed. I think there are too many folks out there in our country who are too quick to jump to a primitive, eye-for-an-eye view of retributive justice."
The response among U.S. servicemembers was largely critical. “So, they’re gonna give these guys a pardon, give them guns, and let them go on patrols with us?” said PFC Richard Barnes, a soldier with the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team. “Who in the world could possibly think that’s a good idea?”
Barnes' opinion is typical among U.S. combat soldiers deployed to Afghanistan, who are understandably skeptical of the President’s ambitious plan in light of the surge in “green-on-blue” attacks.
Some Taliban infiltrators have joined in the ranks of Afghan security forces, but the motive for the majority of these attacks remains unclear, with some studies currently assessing self-esteem levels among Afghan personnel to determine whether that may have been a factor.
"We're confident that in their hearts, Taliban fighters respect the rule of law as much as we do," Carney said. "We don't anticipate any significant challenges implementing this new policy."