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Welcome, Talibanistan?

The Taliban are undefeated. Should that earn them a state of their own?

States come into the world much like people: bloody, screaming, and blunderingly unaware of how to behave in polite society. France, the Netherlands, and the U.S.: All once started out as rebellions and revolutions. They were labeled traitors, barbarians, and terrorists and shunned by the powers that were.

But as these violent upstarts proved undefeatable on the battlefield, some sort of accommodation eventually had to be arranged. The same goes for many other of today’s well-established, highly sophisticated countries. So: When will we recognize Talibanistan?

In 2001, a U.S.-led coalition threw the Taliban out of Kabul, their removal from power the price they paid for the sanctuary they had provided to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. But in the decade and a half since, the military might of the West has been unable to eradicate the Islamist movement from the land it had supposedly liberated.

Now the ISAF task force has wound down, and the Taliban are still around, their estimated 60,000 fighters largely in control of the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan — the government of which they also fight.

Although it is unlikely that they will defeat either government (at least any time soon), their presence on both sides of the so-called Durand Line that is the official Af-Pak border, has in places rendered it as meaningless as the Syrian-Iraqi border straddled by Islamic State.

However, most cartographers still obligingly trace the Durand Line across any new map of the area. So it is a bit of a shock to see this map, which overlays the official map with the actual situation on the ground.

But maybe this is what the official cartography for the region will look like, some years hence. Assuming the state structures currently holding sway from Kabul and Islamabad don’t disintegrate, nor manage to regain control over the border area, a logical accommodation could be to recognize the writ of the Taliban over the area where they rule the roost. Et voila, Talibanistan, nestled  between a reduced Afghanistan and Pakistan. Born out of a bloody revolution, just like France. Although its slogan is unlikely to be liberté, égalité, fraternité.

Much, much more on the Taliban’s rise and fall and rise again in this paper from the Council on Foreign Relations, which also contains this map of Talibanistan — perhaps one day the junior musician in the Concert of Nations.


Strange Maps #713

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