Barney Ronay has an article in the Guardian [2/11/12] about how the Afghans united in support of their cricket team against Pakistan.
That the Afghans would support their cricket team against Pakistan’s is hardly news. I have never met an Afghan that trusted a Pakistani, and war and the dealings with Pakistan’s ISI have simply reinforced that opinion.
What was most interesting was the news that the Taliban expressed support for the Afghan team. That is good news on a couple of grounds. For one thing, it suggests that they identify with the Afghans, not the Pakistanis. Again, it isn’t much of a surprise, because even though the Pakistanis have supported the Taliban in their fight against the Afghan government they have won little appreciation from the Taliban. It is no doubt because the ISI have been heavihanded. That the Taliban are willing to talk to representatives of the Afghan government reveals their distrust of the Pakistan and desire to escape from their control. Yes, they want the Americans out, but they don’t want the Pakistanis in either.
The other interesting thing about the Taliban support of the cricket team is that it suggests that they have softened their opposition to entertainments like radio and TV. What about wedding parties and dancing? One of the little noted results of the extended period of war in Afghanistan may be that the Taliban have begun to accommodate to what the rest of the world is like — even what other Muslims are like elsewhere. The Taliban movement began as a rustic opposition to repressive activities of the local warlords but there appears to have been a kind of subtext in the movement: resentment against innovations from the outside world of many kinds, things that were deemed from Soviet influence; the sense that come practices were godless (as in Soviet) were later transferred to the Americans. Now, after so many years engaging with outsiders the Taliban may have decided that some of the innovations from the outside world are OK. Also, they may have come to realize that the Afghanistan peoples deeply resented all the rules they tried to put into place — enforced by essentially ignorant troops, ignorant of Islam as well as the outside world.