Thursday, November 27, 2008

Talks with Taliban

Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, attended the Saudi meeting and said there was no discussion of peace talks. Taliban has not yet admitted of talks with the government. Zaeef said Karzai's government missed an opportunity when it failed to engage the Taliban in talks three years ago. Since then, he said, the Taliban has grown stronger. He added, the Taliban had no hope that the American rule would collapse in Afghanistan but now they do. While Taliban forces appear to have gained the upper hand across large swaths of Afghanistan, they are not yet a unified force and by no mean they want to talk with Kabul. Dissension and dissatisfaction on both sides and among western countries could provide an impetus for talks.
Karzai's government held secret talks with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former mujahedin leader now labelled a terrorist by American and Britain, through members of his family who regularly visit Kabul.
As a mujahedin commander against the Russians, Hekmatyar was supported by the CIA and Pakistan. In the civil war which followed the Soviet withdrawal, he continued to be backed by the Americans and Pakistanis despite being blamed for atrocities. The warlord later fell out with the Americans and based himself in Iran, from where he directed attacks on Afghans and Nato.
Pakistan has a central role in Taliban talks, the session in Saudi Arabia included several Pakistani officials, including former prime minister Nawaz Sharif. Sharif, who now leads the largest opposition bloc in Pakistan’s Parliament, has been a vocal advocate of negotiating with Taliban commanders in his country. he is not alone many other Pakistani fictions has urged Afghan government and western allies to enter dialogue with Taliban. Pakistan see Taliban as an instrument to insert influence over Kabul.
Britain is stepping up pressure for a political and diplomatic settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan, a move set in sharp relief by the commander of UK troops who warned that the war against the Taliban was not going to be won.
The message is being delivered with increasing urgency by British military commanders, diplomats and intelligence officers, to Nato allies and governments in the region.
The deepening concerns reflect what British defence chiefs are saying privately. The conflict with the Taliban has reached "stalemate", they say. They also express increasing frustration with the weakness and corruption of President Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul.
British officials are exasperated with the Karzai administration, the slowness in building up a national army and corruption in the Afghan police force.Violence in Afghanistan has risen to its worst level since 2001, when US-led forces overthrew the Taliban.
Aid agencies say the Taliban and associated groups are controlling more territory and it is increasingly difficult to provide the population with their humanitarian needs, let alone physical security.
The US has also changed its position on talking to the Taliban. Soon after Mullah Omar's regime was overthrown in 2001, the then US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, declared that it would never again be allowed to seize power in Afghanistan. "Those who have been defeated would like to come back but they will not have that opportunity" he said. Since then, with the Taliban resurgent as the US-led "war on terror" shifted to Iraq, American officials have been much more receptive to the idea of talking to the Taliban. David Petraeus, the US general credited with reducing violence in Iraq by winning over insurgents, is now overseeing the multi-national mission in Afghanistan. He is expected to introduce some of his Iraqi tactics into the conflict.
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