Taliban publicly expresses interest in talks with U.S.

By » Tue, January 3 2012

pearl qatar Taliban publicly expresses interest in talks with U.S.

By Ernesto Londoño, the Washington Post

The Taliban on Tuesday for the first time publicly expressed interest in negotiating with Washington, outlining a vision for talks with U.S. officials in Qatar that conspicuously excluded a role for the Afghan government.

The announcement marked a major departure for a militant group that has long said it will not negotiate while foreign troops remain in Afghanistan. It offered a measure of hope that after years of missteps, a U.S.-sought negotiated settlement to the decade-long war is possible. If a Taliban office is established in Qatar, U.S. and Afghan interlocutors would have a formal venue to hold substantive talks with the group’s envoys after months of clandestine contact.

But analysts warned of substantial unknowns and possible pitfalls, including whether Pakistan will back or seek to thwart the effort. In addition, the statement’s omission of a role for the Afghan government could anger Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who in the past has felt slighted in U.S.-led attempts at peace talks.

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One Taliban motivation for negotiating with Washington involves brokering the release of Taliban leaders detained in the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. An Afghan official suggested Tuesday that the Taliban might use a captured U.S. soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, as a bargaining chip.

Analysts say Taliban leaders have also expressed hope that the United States could bring them out of diplomatic isolation by lobbying to have the group’s leaders removed from international terrorist sanctions lists.

The Obama administration has long sought a political breakthrough in a costly war that has lasted more than a decade and that is increasingly unpopular. But U.S. officials acknowledge that any peace deal with the Taliban — which would likely allow the group back into Kabul through some sort of power-sharing arrangement — would be fraught with challenges and moral dilemmas.

An Afghan role?

The Taliban statement’s failure to mention Karzai or his government put the Obama administration in a difficult position. Even as they have held a half-dozen meetings with insurgent representatives outside Afghanistan over the past year, U.S. officials have continued to insist that “formal” talks would have to be led by the Afghans.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland sidestepped questions on the U.S. role in any forthcoming talks in Qatar. “If this is part of an Afghan-led, Afghan-supported process, and the Afghan government itself believes it can play a constructive role . . . then we will play a role in that, as well,” she said.

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Karzai’s spokesman did not return calls seeking comment on Tuesday. When Karzai asked that the Taliban lay down its arms and return to the political fold in the summer of 2010, he referred to insurgent leaders as wayward “brothers” who would be welcomed back.

But when his top peace broker, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani, was assassinated in a suicide bombing last fall, Karzai rescinded his offer to talk. He said instead that he would henceforth talk only to Pakistani officials, because the Taliban’s leaders have long operated out of safe havens across the border. At times, aides say, he has felt blindsided by clandestine talks that U.S. officials have held with the Taliban.

Continue reading @the Washington Post

I haven’t the foggiest clue why the Taliban leaders would choose to parley in Qatar. None whatsoever. It’s unfathomable.

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One Response

  1. Paracelse January 12 2012 @ 7:28am

    ‘Cept taliban is a generic name for all fatwas and other jihadists… so how can they offer a “piece” talk?

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