A powerful grassroots movement has blossomed in Afghanistan, giving its people new hope, self-esteem and a sense of belonging. The problem is that this movement is the Taliban.
As President Obama and his advisers ponder a new Afghan strategy, the conventional wisdom is that this bottom-up insurgency must be attacked with top-down solutions: a stronger central government, a decline in regional warlordism, a more loyal national army.
But research we recently completed for the World Bank shows that what Afghanistan needs is not solutions from the top down but from the bottom up. It needs a good Taliban — a dispersed people’s movement, spanning thousands of villages, through which the Afghan people can regain a sense of control over their government.
Is this utopian fantasy, or is it possible in a country bloodied by its own past?
It may seem utopian under the myths that have become commonplace in the American understanding of Afghanistan. But our findings suggest that those myths need revision. [continued…]